Why is my car part of the separation?

April 27, 2023

in Family & Relationship Property,Litigation & Dispute Resolution

This post assumes you know that when parties separate (permanently) they divide-up their relationship property, and that you have a rough idea of when property is or isn’t relationship property.

This post is about when your separate property becomes relationship property.

Something you already owned before your relationship began is your separate property (at least to start with).

Something you inherit when someone dies is also your separate property (again, to start with at least). Say you inherit money and you buy something out of that money; then that thing you bought is also separate property.

However, those things can become relationship property based on how they are used, or why they were acquired.

In very simple terms, if something is acquired for relationship purposes, or is used for relationship purposes, it can become relationship property.

Say you inherit cash from a family member, which goes into a separate bank account just for that money. So far, that’s your separate property.

Now lets add that you’re in a relationship with someone, you have kids and the little 2 door you used to get around in just isn’t good enough for the family. So you and your significant other talk about it, and decide that you will use some of your inheritance money to by a car with enough seats for the whole family.

The car, once you’ve got it, will probably be relationship property. The rest of the inheritance money in the bank is still your separate property.

Now say that before you ever met your significant other, you bought and restored a classic car. Then you got into the relationship. Then along came the kids. You always used the classic as your every day car, and because it has enough seats you used it as the family car because you like it more than the average modern family sedan.

In that situation, there is a good chance that the classic – your pride and joy – will have to be treated as relationship property when you separate. That is because the consistent use for family purposes makes a car a family chattel, which the law defines as relationship property.

There are ways to protect you, so that your separate property stays separate. They are easiest when the relationship is just getting started (or even before then). They get trickier as time goes on, and very difficult if you try to do it after separation.

Whichever spot you’re in, if you have property you want to protect for the future, give us a call to see what we can do.

If you require any advice or further information on the matters dealt with in this publication please contact the lawyer at Farry Law who normally advises you, or alternatively contact:

Wallace Revell


09 353 0055

The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only.  It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances.  While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, Farry Law does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. 

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