Family Law
Relationship Property

Stephanie Marsden

03 943 4055

027 413 6481


PO Box 9344,
Tower Junction,
Christchurch 8149

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Stephanie Marsden has practiced as a lawyer since 1989. Before joining the independent bar in November 2011, she worked for larger Christchurch firms.

Stephanie’s practice is almost exclusively in resolution of relationship property disputes involving high value assets and complex asset ownership structures (including trusts, companies and partnership interests) and estate claims. Over recent years Stephanie has specialized in this area of practice but she has experience at a senior level in all aspects of family law, including as Court appointed lawyer for the child. At the outset of her career, Stephanie was a general practitioner including property work,  and appeared in other courts including in the criminal jurisdiction. She considers that this wide breath of experience has held in her good stead in respect of her current practice.

Stephanie’s recent cases have involved claims in respect of relationship property and trusts in the Family Court and High Court and have concerned farms, businesses, accounting, legal and medical practices and overseas assets.  Stephanie often receives instructions based upon her pragmatic and commercial approach to resolution of these issues. Stephanie adopts a team approach to work with the client’s other advisors.

Stephanie is a member of the New Zealand Law Society Family Law Section advisory panel making submissions on law reform and a member of the Academic Review Board of the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal.

She has presented seminars for the New Zealand Law Society and Canterbury Westland Branch on claims against trusts on separation,  claims against estates involving spouses and partners, Trusts and relationship property, section 182 Family Proceedings Act claims and supervised contact.

Stephanie is from a farming background. She is married and has adult children. In her spare time Stephanie is involved in long distance running, reading, entertaining friends, gardening and with another lawyer has recently established a law choir in Christchurch.

Stephanie is a trustee of the Court Theatre Trust and a former member of the Board of Rangi Ruru Girls’ School.

Recent work

The issues in her recent cases have included:

  • A successful appeal under s182 Family Proceedings Act finding that a trust formed prior to a marriage was a nuptial settlement and that the later purchase of a farm was a nuptial settlement
  • Defending a claim that an increase in value of farm land was relationship property and that a current account in a company was relationship property
  • Family Protection claims
  • seeking summary judgment to enforce a contracting out agreement which purported to bind a trust (the plaintiff maintained the agreement was signed in a dual capacity by the trustees)
  • steps to oppose a move by the trustees of an estate to add additional beneficiaries to a trust following the death of the settlor
  • disputes about valuation of assets including land, company shares, businesses and professional practices
  • testamentary capacity
  • a claim that a farm was separate property
  • obtaining an order for extensive pre-hearing discovery in a s182 Family Proceedings Act/Relationship property claim
  • obtaining a declaration that a verbal agreement as to the status of property as relationship property should have effect notwithstanding non-compliance with the formalities of S21F of the Property (Relationships) Act
  • defending a claim that there had been sustenance of separate property (a farm)
  • opposing and advancing disputed claims that de facto relationships existed
  • opposing leave by an estate to bring proceedings under the Property (Relationships) Act
  • opposing summary judgment to enforce an agreement under s21 Property (Relationships) Act and seeking leave to set aside that agreement
  • opposing an application to set aside a s21 agreement
  • claims about property acquired after separation including shares issued relating to employment and a trauma payment under a policy of life insurance
  • defending a constructive trust claim against a trust
  • spousal maintenance claims
  • obtaining an order (on appeal) departing from formula assessment of child support where income was retained within a company and trust