New Zealand mistress denied divorce claim

Family Law|October 5th 2016

The long-time mistress of a New Zealand millionaire has failed in her bid to obtain a share of his divorce settlement.

She sought a part of various assets which were valued at NZ$16 million (£9 million) by her wealthy partner and NZ£22 million (£5 million) by his former wife of 47 years.

The man’s mistress claimed she was entitled to some of it as she had been in a relationship with him for 27 years despite the fact he was already married. Therefore she wanted the courts to recognise her as his “de-facto” partner. In New Zealand, a de-facto relationship is when an unmarried couple live together like they would as though they were married or in a civil union.

The couple, from Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island, applied to the country’s Family Court seeking a declaration that they were in fact in a de-facto relationship. When that was rejected, they tried their luck at the High Court.

During these legal proceedings, the wife insisted that the mistress’ claim of a relationship was first made in either 2011 or 2012. Additionally, she argued that the claim was only made in order to make the divorce more difficult for her.

Judges in each court agreed with the wife and denied the mistress’ claims, but the couple would not be deterred. They applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the previous rulings, claiming that in the prior cases, the courts had set the bar for what counted as a de-facto relationship too high. This had resulted in a “serious injustice” they insisted.

However, when Justices Wild, French and Brown heard their application, they rejected it. There had been several “findings there was no de facto relationship in existence” Justice French explained and their case did not have “general or public importance such as to outweigh the cost and delay of a second appeal”.

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