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She finally left her abusive partner, now he is trying to take half of everything.
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She finally left her abusive partner, now he is trying to take half of everything.

Starting a relationship in your mid-fifties should be OK.

You’ve experienced the ups and downs of life, and should be steering towards a comfortable retirement.

But what happens if you are financially secure and your new partner is unemployed and has lived a transient lifestyle. You take him under your wing, he is looking for work or so he says. And the violence starts. It must be my fault, I think. If I try harder things will get better

And of course they don’t. He leaves on numerous occasions but always comes back. And after a brief honeymoon period the violence starts again and again. You still forgive. One more chance becomes one hundred more chances.

Until in July 2016, you break. The police are called and a protection order is issued. Safe at last? Yes and no. The violent former partner has one more ace up his sleeve.

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His legal aid lawyer tells him that he is entitled to half of everything, despite not contributing a cent to the relationship. The following is part of the text of an email I sent to numerous MPs following the 2016 election:

I am contacting you as a survivor of family violence. I was abused physically and mentally, my pets were abused (one was put to sleep as a result of injuries sustained following an attack by my now ex), holes were punched in the walls of my home and my furniture and belongings smashed.

I’m aware that the Property (Relationship) Act is being reviewed but I expect that it will take a considerable amount of time before we see any changes implemented.

The act states that relationship property should be divided equally between the parties. On the surface, that appears to be fair and no doubt dates back to the days when women were the homemakers who raised the children and men were the breadwinners.

In my case, I have always been the breadwinner, my now ex-partner worked for just a few weeks during our on-off relationship that spanned approximately seven years and which ended in July 2016 when a protection order was issued.

When I met him, I owned my own home, was working full time and had a reasonable amount of money in the bank. I had considerable equity in the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme in Australia. The equity was accrued over the period from 1972 to 2003. My ex was unemployed and owned an old car, a small caravan and a section.

In 2011, I took an early retirement, cashed in my Australian Public Service Superannuation lump sum entitlement. I used the funds to purchase and develop a lifestyle property in the South Island. I had to return to work in 2014 and am still working now.

Despite the relationship being rocky and the police having been called to talk to my partner following a particularly frightening outburst in 2010, I stupidly invited him to move to the South Island with me.

The violence continued, holes were punched in walls, my belongings were smashed and I was subjected to on-going psychological abuse. The police were called or spoken to on several occasions and after a particularly nasty episode early in July 2016 a protection order was issued.

My ex-partner is seeking a property settlement. He is demanding a cash payment equal to 50 percent of the value of the property I purchased with my superannuation lump sum payment. He clearly expects me to take out a mortgage so that I can ‘re-purchase’ my own home. He hasn’t been in paid employment for more than a few weeks in the time I have known him, he has no intention of working again. He is 60 and he refuses to apply for a benefit.

My lawyer has indicated there can be grounds for an unequal distribution of assets but it is a difficult and expensive test to satisfy.

I have provided my lawyer with comprehensive supporting documentation outlining the history of the relationship and the violence that occurred. I have prepared spreadsheets which show how much I transferred to my ex’s bank account over the years, how much I have spent on the property and general living expenses, the value of items he broke or damaged and indirect payments made on his behalf – rates payments for his section, a car I bought him. I also have photographs of the damage he has caused and several voice recordings that would not be out of place in a scene from Once Were Warriors.

And although there is support for victims via Women’s Refuge, counselling services etc, I have found that I have been left to my own devices to fight to retain my home.

The home that I purchased with what equates to my life savings, my home that still has holes in the walls and kick marks on the doors.

I also can’t begin to quantify the effect the on-going psychological abuse has had on my self-esteem and general well-being.

It seems violence pays in New Zealand.

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