Christchurch: CBD – (03) 379 7690 | Ferrymead – (03) 940 2435 | Hornby – (03) 349 5111

Family Law

Our family lawyers have many decades of experience in managing sensitive and emotionally charged issues involving children and property. It can be a challenging time for people and our advice to clients aims to reflect this.

As family lawyers, our balanced approach endeavours to take the stress out of the process and find a solution that is in the best interests of our client. Our clients also come to see us for advice on the legal implications of establishing a relationship or family, custody and property disputes and mediation as well as the creation of wills, and other matters that are not the subject of a dispute.

External links to further information

New Zealand Law Society publications:

Examples of our recent work

  • Successfully arguing for unequal division of relationship property Mauger v Mauger [2015] NZFC 570.
  • Obtaining freezing orders over bank accounts on behalf of a client in a relationship property dispute.

Get further advice from

Michael Kirkland

Consultant

Direct Dial: +64 3 963 1455
Mobile: 021 0285 1682
E-mail: michael.kirkland@saunders.co.nz

After many years as a partner in a Christchurch law firm, Michael chose to live with his family in France in 2002, where he attended the University of Marseille and his children attended College Mignet. On his return, he soon accepted a partnership at Saunders & Co. He quickly assimilated into that role and his loyal client base followed him.

He is on numerous charitable trust boards and in his specialty of adoption, his advice is nationally sought. Michael has been counsel involved in often cited Court of Appeal decisions.

From 2015 Michael stepped down from partnership and into his current role as a consultant/special counsel. As he heads toward retirement, his focus is on mentoring the civil team in conjunction with Partner, Andrew Riches, and ensuring his clients are well looked after, both presently and in the coming years.

Michael is a keen sportsman having played representative cricket and rugby, and now enjoying tennis and golf.

Michael specialises in the following areas:

What Michael’s clients say

“My relationship with Michael Kirkland is one that goes well beyond a client/lawyer type, because he has taken such a personal interest in me and my family’s welfare. This relationship started in an unusual manner. I met him in a case I was drawn into beyond my control many years ago when he was on the opposite side. Michael did a great job for his client – to my detriment, and upon it’s conclusion, he came to me and said that he was sorry that the case went against me, and if I ever needed his help, he would gladly assist. This was such a generous gesture, that from that time on, I made a mental note to contact him if I ever needed to. Some many years later, I took up his offer and called him to help me resolve some legal issues, and a rapport commenced ever since to the point that we have become firm friends.

Although he specialises in litigation, Michael does more than that. He is always ready to give advice on legal or financial matters – both in my personal and business affairs. He takes matters very personally, and extends himself well beyond normal working hours: I know this because he would not hesitate to call me at any time of the day or night, and on weekends – even to the point of tracking me down when I am overseas if he felt it imperative to discuss important issues. In return, I know that I can call him at any time too, and whenever I find myself passing through Christchurch, he offers his cottage for the night.

The fact that Michael is an excellent lawyer goes without saying. He is a true professional and his dedication is impressive. A feature of his preparation is that it is always backed up by thorough legal research, and at the same time uses easy to understand layman terms by adopting logical analogies to explain his point. Michael is also very willing to call on his colleagues at Saunders & Co who have their own expertise in both law and life experience, to assist in legal interpretations. This has resulted in other disciplines in the firm undertaking tasks for my business interests and me.

In essence, if anybody is in need of an excellent dedicated lawyer, and one who is also prepared to become personally involved in their legal affairs, I would recommend Michael Kirkland and his law firm Saunders & Co.”
Fred van Brandenburg – Principal
Architects van Brandenburg, Lake Hayes Queenstown

“During our first dealings with Michael Kirkland of Saunders & Co, in 1994, he gave us some sound advice relating to design responsibility involved with a construction contract which saved us a considerable sum of money. Since then Michael has assisted us with all legal issues associated with my business and personal affairs. It is always pleasant to deal with Michael and the staff at Saunders & Co and, as well as the legal advice, I value Michael’s opinions on more general business matters based on his long experience.”
Peter Davies – Director, Dawn Group, Christchurch

“We have now been a client of Michael Kirkland and Saunders & Co since 2002. During this time our business has enjoyed good growth periods and more recently had to retrench as the current recession has made trading difficult. We employ over 100 people, running a garment manufacturing unit, a wholesale distribution centre, and a retail business of 17 company owned stores. We have used the professional advice of Saunders & Co regularly for contract support with leases, and less regularly for:

  • management of personal affairs and the integration to the business
  • bank documentation support
  • purchase of property agreement negotiations
  • employment agreement disputes

We enjoy working with Michael because we value his opinion, and the professional support his partners and consultants give him. We regularly use Peter Wood, a consultant of the firm, for support of lease negotiations. Michael is fair and honest in his assessment of the situation, often giving advice on how to minimize a dispute. We have always found Michael compassionate to the situation of both parties, but prepared to ensure our interests are protected when negotiating. Saunders & Co have always given good advice and been prepared to stand by that advice. We value our relationship with them. Without their support as our legal team, we would not have grown, or weathered the recession as well as we have.”
Don Symon – Managing Director, Kauri Clothing – Home of Wild South Clothing, Christchurch

Peter Tatham

Consultant

Direct Dial: +64 3 265 0915
Mobile 027 448 6336
E-mail: peter.tatham@saunders.co.nz
Assistant: Jennifer Whitbread

Peter is a consultant who joined Saunders & Co in 2013, from Franklin Law in Pukekohe where he was a Senior Solicitor practising as a civil and family court lawyer and head of the estates administration team.

Based at our Hornby office, Peter has an extensive general practice with an emphasis on estate administration and litigation, relationship property agreements and litigation, wills, enduring powers of attorney, and residential property conveyancing. He also has significant experience in rural legal matters, in particular, the dairying and chicken farming industries.

With a relaxed, friendly approach, Peter relates to a wide range of people, and is able to help individuals to solve any legal issues they may face. Relationship property makes up around half of Peter’s practice. He is known for being calm and pragmatic as he helps clients navigate what can be emotionally-charged situations.

Peter is well organised, likes to keep a tidy office, and enjoys using technology to communicate with his clients.

Outside of the office, Peter likes to keep up with world affairs, and each day reads international newspapers and journals on the bus to and from work. He also enjoys spending time with his German Shepherd dog, spending time tramping in the great outdoors, has held management and administration roles in football (both at club and regional level), and regularly writes poetry.

Peter specialises in the following areas:

What Peter’s clients say

“I am so pleased that I chose Saunders & Co for all my legal requirements. I have found that they are very professional and a pleasure to deal with.”
Marie Hansen

“The team that assisted me during my relationship split, proved to be professional and went above and beyond to assist me. They made the process as simple as they possible could, they also showed empathy during a very stressful time.”
Logan Gianelly

We would just like to thank you for all your assistance in the whole process of buying our first home. It was not smooth but with your help it was made easy. We’d be very happy to recommend you to family and friends in the future. We will be in touch if we need your service again.”
Dennis Demanawa and Marie Bulaong

“We were very pleased with Peter’s help in understanding our options and are pleased to now have a local Hornby contact for legal advice in the area of commercial debt recovery. We appreciated his prompt attention to questions and advice.”
Heather Ruddle, Prestige Commercial Vehicles

“Thank you to both of you Peter and Jennifer, for the sensitive way in which you managed to navigate our issues. I acknowledge you were often placed in an uncompromising position needing to deal with our emotional frustrations and sometimes angry outbursts. With your patient guidance and understanding we have now reached an amicable outcome.”
R Naida Glavish ONZM JP, Co-Chair Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua

Sarah Bee

Partner

Direct dial: +64-3-966 7704
Mobile: 027 366 6090
E-mail: sarah.bee@saunders.co.nz
Assistant: Jen Shearer

Sarah joined Saunders & Co in 2013 and was made a partner of the firm in 2018.

Working in general practice with smaller firms in Wellington since 2001 has provided Sarah with experience and expertise in a wide range of legal disciplines for private clients, such as family law including relationship property and property law with a special interest in trusts and estates.

Sarah takes an avid interest in her clients and tailors her approach to their needs. She is known for being pragmatic and direct, asking the right questions to get to the heart of a matter as quickly as possible. This is especially pertinent when dealing with family relationship matters, trusts or enduring powers of attorney. Sarah’s aim is for an effective and expedient resolution for her clients.

Relationship property is a particular area of interest for Sarah.  She assists with contracting out agreements (pre-nuptial agreements) when clients wish to record their understanding about how property will be dealt with if they separate or die. These agreements are becoming increasingly prevalent as a form of relationship “insurance”, ensuring that both parties have an enforceable plan should they separate or one of them dies.

Sarah also helps clients to negotiate agreements and settlements when couples are separating.

She is also highly experienced when it comes to property sale and purchase transactions, making the process as stress-free for her clients as possible. She is supported in property matters by Senior Legal Executive Nicole Watson.

Outside work, Sarah and her builder husband are busy with their children and enjoy being part of the Lincoln Community.

Sarah specialises in the following areas:

What Sarah’s clients say

“I can highly recommend Sarah Bee – she has been an absolute star to deal with, extremely professional and I really couldn’t have asked for anyone to be more efficient. Sarah has replied after hours and in weekends to my emails, deconstructed legal terminology (!) and generally made setting up a trust, selling a house and purchasing a house a very easy, stress-free process for me. I have no hesitation in recommending Sarah and will definitely be using her services again in the future.”
Anne-Marie Grace, Auckland

“We have dealt with Saunders and Co for many years and most recently with Sarah Bee for a property sale transaction. Sarah has been wonderful to deal with whether via phone, email or text. Since the earthquakes, property sales in the Canterbury region seem to always be a protracted event and we thank Sarah for her guidance and good humour through the peaks and troughs.”
Anne and Barry Worthington, Auckland

“We would like to thank you for the professional and courteous service we received from Sarah in acting for us with the sale of the apartment. I have to say, she was excellent, and is a credit to your business. We thought things were complicated, but Sarah always explained everything so thoroughly that we were always left feeling confident. We trusted her without question. She was just so diligent and responsive.”
Joseph and Pauline Besso, Christchurch

Tui Scott

Lawyer

Direct dial: +64 265 0316
Mobile: 027 696 3784
E-mail: tui.scott@saunders.co.nz

Tui has specialised in the area of family law since her admission in 2015. She enjoys the one on one interaction with clients that this area of law provides and is experienced in guiding clients through this particularly stressful, and sometimes, highly emotional time.

Tui has appeared regularly in a number of family courts around the South Island, including Christchurch, Nelson, Blenheim, the West Coast and South Canterbury. This experience means that Tui is well versed in the particular workings of many of our South Island regional courts and is familiar with the local lawyers in these regions. This background assists Tui in progressing her clients’ goals, and in ultimately achieving the best outcome possible.

Tui’s area of expertise includes matters relating to care of children, domestic violence, and disputes as to paternity. Such matters often call for input from other agencies and experts. Tui ensures she is kept well connected to relevant organisations through her participation on a number of boards and associations, including the Family Courts Association.

As a person, Tui enjoys anything outdoors. When not at the office, Tui can be found trail running in the hills around Christchurch or socialising with friends.

Tui is an approved Family Legal Advice Service (FLAS) and Family Legal Aid provider.

Tui specialises in

Locations:

CBD: 131 Victoria Street, Christchurch, NZ

Ferrymead: Unit 2, 987 Ferry Road, Christchurch, NZ

Hornby: 5 Goulding Avenue, Christchurch, NZ

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