Paul v Mead - [2021] NZCA 649

Date of Judgment

03 December 2021

Decision

Paul v Mead (PDF 450 KB)

Summary

Appeal allowed. 
Relationship Property — Jurisdiction — Polyamorous relationships. 

Lilach Paul and Brett Paul were married in February 1993 and formed a polyamorous relationship with Fiona Mead in 2002.  They all lived together in that relationship for the next 15 years in the same house in Kumeu.  Each partner made contributions of various kinds to their joint household.  Lilach separated from Fiona and Brett in November 2017, and Brett and Fiona subsequently separated in early 2018.  Fiona remains living in the Kumeu property.  In 2019, Lilach applied to the Family Court seeking relationship property orders under the PRA.  Fiona protested the Family Court’s jurisdiction on the basis that the PRA did not apply to a three‑person relationship.  Brett filed a notice of defence and cross‑application for relationship property orders under the PRA.  The case was referred to the High Court by way of case stated.  Hinton J found that the PRA was limited to relationships between two people only, which meant the relationships between Lilach and Fiona, and between Brett and Fiona, were not qualifying de facto relationships.  Lilach appeals to this Court.

Does the Family Court have jurisdiction under the PRA to determine the property rights of three persons in a polyamorous relationship, either on the basis of that relationship or by dividing that relationship into dyadic parts?Held: Yes.  The Family Court has jurisdiction under the PRA to determine claims to property as between two persons who were married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship, and also in a polyamorous relationship.  That jurisdiction extends to determining claims among three people in a polyamorous relationship, where each partner in that polyamorous relationship is either married to, in a civil union with, or in a de facto relationship with, each of the other partners in that polyamorous relationship.  The PRA is concerned with relationships between two people, and a polyamorous relationship as such is not a qualifying relationship under the PRA.  But coupledom is not exclusive coupledom: within a wider polyamorous relationship, there may be (multiple) qualifying relationships between two people to which the PRA applies.