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Chris The Lawyer
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 22171
Experience:  37 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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I have a friend whose relationship has split (they lived together

Customer Question

I have a friend whose relationship has split (they lived together for approx 18 but 6 of this was travelling, and they only combined bank account in March last year (they split in January) - His ex partner is now threatening to take him to court to recover the cost of some renovation work that they did, she paid the costs (approx $16k). He is not disputing this but is not in a position to repay it nor borrow any further against his home loan. Due to hardship he has just had a mortgage repayment holiday when his tenant left him nearly $4k down in unpaid rent and he also had to refurb the property and is now maxed up on his overdraft. However he has set up a $50 per fortnight repayment - this is as much as he can currently afford. He has now listed his rental, even though he does not wish to sell, but with the threats of court action he is so concerned that he could loose his house - he cannot afford legal costs but also does not want to sell at a loss.
My main question is if he has a repayment schedule in place, with the intention to increase payment as soon as he is able or his rental property sells, is it likely that court action can be taken. She also threatened disputes tribunal - again he is not disputing repayment just - it is just the when that is in question.
My involvement is that f a friend as he is currently experiencing severe anxiety and depression and he is now under community mental health as his mental well being is very fragile and I am extremely concerned for him and would like to reassure him that if he has a repayment plan in place it is 'unreasonable take him to court - or am i wrong.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: New Zealand Law
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 6 months ago.
There is no rule which says that if there is a repayment plan in place that this will stop her from filing a court case. However the disputes Tribunal would not have the power to deal with a dispute over relationship property, which is solely a subject for the family Court. So if she wants to insist on him paying this money she will need to decide if she wants to file a claim in the family Court and whether the cost of doing so will justify what he can pay. If there is a judgment for a sum of money then there are a number of options for collecting the money. If she uses the order for examination process, then he will be examined as to his ability to pay, and likely will be ordered to pay about what he is paying now. So in terms of the money to be spent on the exercise, it would not be worthwhile for her to bring a claim. Sadly in relationship issues like this the logical step is not always the one chosen. But he does not need to take any steps, and can leave it entirely up to her to file any court claim she wants. What he is doing about making the payments that he can afford is actually a very sensible step, and will I suspect cause her to eventually lose interest in bringing court claims. Often the threat of bringing court claims is not about the money but about other issues. So sometimes mediation can be a good answer in which he can explain his inability to do any better, but then reach a binding agreement as to how this relatively modest amount can be repaid. So I suggest that if she continues to threaten court cases, that you suggest mediation as a much better option, which will cause much less stress on everyone.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
thanks Chris
your answer reflects my thoughts - but common sense does not always prevail. Would Family courts accept a case given they do not meet defacto relationship time frames i.e. less than 18 months? no answer necessary if extra cost involved as I am doing this on behalf of friend and do not want further expense :) thanks
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 6 months ago.
The three year period is just the time by which equal sharing applies. So any claims still need to filed in the Family Court even if they are short of the full period, and he can challenge a claim in the Disputes Tribunal and say it should be in the family court

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