Family & Relationship


Special Counsel
Senior Associate

Our national family law team are highly experienced with a wide range of practise to provide family law advice across the country. We engage in a broad range of work to cover everything from asset planning and protection for individuals, to separation and childcare issues. Our expertise covers issues which arise at the beginning of a relationship, during a relationship or at the end of a relationship.

Each family, individual and business is unique, meaning different approaches and outcomes are appropriate for different people. We offer family law advice and representation which is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances, focusing on achieving the best outcome for you and your family. Our team can guide you through any family dispute and endeavour to make the process as stress-free as possible.

Relationship Property

Drafting and advising on contracting out agreements

Prior to or during a relationship, parties can enter into contracting out agreements to regulate how finances and assets will be managed if the relationship breaks down. These agreements can be particularly important where:

  • one party has significant separate property;
  • where there are unequal contributions to a property purchase;
  • there is a second or subsequent relationship.
  • These agreements need to be carefully considered and worded to ensure they accurately record the wishes of the parties, and to ensure they remain binding in the future. Our team are experts at both drafting and advising on contracting out agreements.
Separation and the division of property

Separations are an emotionally charged time and can be difficult to navigate. On separation there will need to be a division of property and financial assets. This can be a challenging task. For the division of property to be binding both parties must receive independent legal advice. Our dedicated team are experts at working out entitlements and finalising financial and property settlements. Our team can also provide advice prior to a separation regarding potential entitlements and the likely outcomes.

Claims against trusts

Trusts are an extremely common structure in New Zealand and can have the effect of diminishing relationship property entitlements. However, the courts are recognising more and more claims against trusts. Our team are experts in determining what claims can be made against trusts, advising on how to protect a trust or to access property owned by a trust to obtain a fair outcome for our clients.

Spousal maintenance

After separation, where one person cannot meet their own reasonable needs, spousal maintenance can be payable by the other spouse or partner to provide ongoing financial support. Spousal maintenance can be negotiated or an application can be made to the court. Our team can help you negotiate an agreement, draft an application to obtain spousal maintenance from your ex-partner or help you defend an application.


Care of children

The care of children following separation can be highly emotional and difficult to navigate. Our team can help separated parents reach agreement on how their children will be cared for following separation, including decisions regarding where the child will live. If an agreement cannot be reached our team will advise and assist through the court process.

Child support

Child support refers to an amount of money payable by one parent to the other parent to assist with the costs of caring for the children. Child support is regulated in New Zealand by the Child Support Act 1991, however parties are able to come to their own arrangements that better reflect their specific child’s needs. Our team are experienced at navigating the Child Support Act and assisting with private arrangements for parents and their children.


The adoption process in New Zealand is complex. Our team can help individuals and couples wanting to adopt a child within New Zealand or internationally navigate through the legal process.


Estate planning and estate claims

Duncan Cotterill advise clients on all aspects of estate administration including wills and trusts. This includes succession planning to ensure your wishes after death are carried out. In certain circumstances, if not adequately provided for, family members are able to bring a claim against an estate. Our team can advise on and assist in seeking further distributions from an estate under the Family Protection Act or Testamentary Promises Act.

Protection of Personal and Property rights

It can be an extremely difficult time for a family when a loved one no longer has the capacity to make decisions relating to their personal affairs. If there is no power of attorney in place, we can assist families make an application to the Court to be appointed as a welfare guardian and property manager so that they are able to make decisions in the best interests of the subject person.

Protection orders

Family violence can take various forms. Protection orders are intended to stop behaviour that makes another person in a domestic relationship feel unsafe. A person who has been the subject of domestic violence can apply to the court for a protection order. We can assist in drafting applications for protection orders as well as advising people who have had protection orders made against them.

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