Going through a separation is one of life’s most challenging experiences. In this article we explain the importance of getting early legal advice from a family lawyer, to ensure you are well informed when navigating the early stages of a separation.

Sometimes we find people delay meeting with a lawyer, because they don’t understand the benefits in doing so. The law is complex and there is no ‘one size fits all’ outcome to every separation – for example, in some cases it will be appropriate for there to be equal-shared care of children, in others it will not. Similarly, in some cases all property owned by the parties will be divided equally, but in plenty of other cases this is not the legal position.

You need to understand your rights, entitlements, likely outcomes, and potential strategies to achieve the outcome you seek. These things are going to change based on the facts of each situation. Being well-informed will enable you to have more constructive conversations with your ex-partner, and better protect your interests.

At JB Morrison Lawyers we offer an ‘initial consultation’ process, which is a fixed-fee, no obligations meeting, that is cheaper than our usual hourly rates.  This gives us a chance to sit down, understand your background circumstances, give you some tailored legal advice, and come up with an action plan for you to progress things. 

We have seen situations where people delay taking legal advice, and get themselves into situations in the meantime which are contrary to their interests. Often this is just because they don’t know any better, and start their negotiations on the wrong track. It can be very difficult to unpick such a situation later, and doing so can undo any goodwill you were trying to maintain.

Speaking with a lawyer does not mean you lose control of the situation. Some people will just take background advice, while they front the negotiations themselves. Others will need a lawyer to take over all the correspondence and negotiations. And then some will require a hybrid approach, depending on how things go.


Early legal advice is even more critical when:

  • There is a power imbalance between the parties. This could be because of family violence dynamics, a financial imbalance, or a health issue.
  • There are immediate decisions to be made which could impact significantly in the longer-term. For example, who gets to stay in the house? Should I agree to a week-about care arrangement for the children? Should be share our incomes even though we have separated? Do I need to pay half of my ex’s rent if they agree to move out?
  • There is a risk that one person is going to make big decisions without agreement. For example, moving the children to another city, selling a relationship property asset, cashing in KiwiSaver, or the like.
  • You are fearful that your ex will try to hide assets, and not provide full disclosure.
  • You are being “told” by your ex-partner what the property division or children’s care arrangements will be.
  • You have been served with court proceedings, or there is mention of such.
  • You have received a letter from your ex’s lawyer.


Legal advice is generally a necessary part of the process when it comes to dividing assets, as it is a requirement for a settlement agreement to be binding.  Section 21A of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 requires each party to a separation and property division agreement to have independent legal advice, and for their lawyers to sign a certificate on the document.  Engaging a lawyer earlier in the process will save cost, time and stress once it gets to that point.

Contact a specialist Rotorua family lawyer today to discuss your specific situation.


For More Information

If you would like to speak to one of JB Morrison’s family law experts or book an initial consultation about the separation and property division process, please get in touch. 

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See more of our family law articles here.



When to engage a family lawyer following a separation