What are my Options if I Wish to Separate From my Partner During Alert Level 4 Lockdown?

What are my Options if I Wish to Separate From my Partner During Alert Level 4 Lockdown?

The combination of isolating within one bubble along with additional financial stress, changes to childcare and working from home can bring personal relationships closer or unfortunately, push them apart. Breakdowns in personal relationships can add an additional layer of stress to an already difficult situation.  However, it is important to remember that help is available.

Whilst the current lockdown restrictions do not allow movement between different households (unless there are safety concerns) and therefore it may not be possible for you and your partner to physically separate - you can still live in the same bubble and separate from your partner at the same time. It is not uncommon for partners to separate but remain living in the same home, particularly when they share children or need time to organise alternative accommodation for the partner who is moving out of the family home.

In instances where physical separation is not attainable, when considering whether parties have separated what is important is the parties' mentality around their separation and whether the parties have begun living independent lives while living in the same bubble.

What can be done to separate while living in the same household?

If a Court were required to determine whether parties are separated, they would look at the mentality that the parties hold towards their separation, along with any practical steps that have been taken to distance themselves while living together which can include:

• Altered sleeping arrangements such as sleeping in separate beds or rooms. However, if separate sleeping arrangements are not a viable option, then this should be documented.  

• Separation of financial affairs such as closing of joint bank accounts and/or creation of independent bank accounts.

• Taking steps to change the perception of the relationship by your family and friends – written communications, social media posts, etc. Keep clear records of communication explaining that you have separated with your partner but you remaining living together under the same roof.

• Ceasing sexual intimacy.

• Embarking on discussions about future childcare arrangements. Family Dispute Resolution services remain open during Alert Level 4 via online delivery to assist you with this.  

• Taking steps towards one party moving out of the home and/or one party purchasing the home or taking over the tenancy. Keep documentation of enquiries into alternate accommodation, discussions with the bank or landlord etc.

It is important to make efforts to establishing the date of separation for two particular reasons:

1. The value of some assets and liabilities which lie in the relationship property pool are assessed at the date of separation. Additionally your post-separation earnings and contributions will also be relevant to later property negotiations.

2. The date is used as the starting point for calculations to obtain a Marriage or Civil Union Dissolution from the Family Court. Parties to a marriage or civil union must be separated for two years or more before the marriage or civil union can be dissolved.

Separation due to family violence

The New Zealand Police have initiated a service called the Silent Solution, which is designed to assist those whose safety is compromised if they were heard seeking help. If you are unable to safely seek help, call 111 and remain silent. By remaining silent, you will be prompted to press double 5. You will then be instructed by an emergency call taker who can organise the appropriate safety arrangements for you. Importantly, if you are experiencing family violence, intimate partner violence, or are living in an unsafe bubble, you are permitted to leave to safe accommodation. Please also see our other articles regarding the assistance we can provide with obtaining Protection Orders and Parenting Orders if necessary.

What we can do to help

We remain available to help with all your legal needs. Please contact the family law partner, Alissa Bell at abell@mcveaghfleming.co.nz to make an enquiry. All appointments take place via phone, Zoom, Skype, or any other conference platform.

See our Expertise pages

Separation and Divorce

Care of Children

Domestic Violence

Relationship Property

© McVeagh Fleming 2021

This article is published for general information purposes only.  Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice.  If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.