Everyone loves a good romance story but what does it mean when the relationship ends as quickly as it started? A marriage which ends before its third anniversary is referred to as a marriage of short duration. In New Zealand there are special rules around division of assets for these short relationships.

In such cases, there is only equal division if the contributions to the relationship were equal. If the contribution of one spouse to the marriage has clearly been disproportionately greater than the contribution of the other spouse then there will be an unequal division.

How that division is calculated is not straightforward. Various things are taken into consideration when calculating a person's contribution. This includes financial contribution, care of children, running of the household and/or performance of work or services.

Strangely, if a marriage of short duration is ended by one spouse dying, it will be treated as if the marriage was over three years' duration. The surviving partner would then be entitled to claim for 50% of the relationship property unless that would be unjust.

De facto relationships

De facto relationships of less than three years are treated differently to marriages.

The courts will only intervene if they are satisfied there is a child of the relationship or one partner has made a 'substantial contribution' to the relationship. This is on the premise that if the court didn't make an order, it would cause serious injustice.