Lady Deborah Chambers QC


Telephone: +64 9 307 8777

[email protected]

Post: Bankside Chambers, Level 22, 88 Shortland Street, Auckland, New Zealand 1140.

Trust Litigation and Relationship Property Specialist

Deborah is one of the leading trust litigation and relationship property lawyers in New Zealand. She specialises in equity litigation, including fiduciary relationships and obligations. She originally practised in general civil litigation and in the criminal law field as a prosecutor but since 1996 has specialised in relationship property law, trusts, estates and fiduciary duties. Her work in this area includes complex cases frequently involving international property.

Deborah was admitted to the bar in 1983 and commenced practice as a barrister sole in 1989. She was made QC in 2007. Prior to that she was with Russell McVeagh, Auckland; a Procurator Fiscal Depute in Glasgow; Meredith Connell; and Butler White and Hanna.

Her litigation experience includes frequent appearances in the Family Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Deborah is also experienced at representing clients in mediations.

Her experience is reflected in the numerous papers and presentations she has made to conferences in New Zealand and she has written articles on a wide variety of legal topics. Deborah is the co-author of the best-selling handbook on domestic property law and estate law For Richer For Poorer. She is also a co-author of the New Zealand Master Trusts Guide.

Lady Deborah has a Wikipedia page, see link under visit website.

Recent and Notable Cases

  • Clayton v Clayton [2016] NZSC 29, [2016] NZFLR 230, and Clayton v Clayton [2016] NZSC 30, [2016] NZFLR 189. Deborah appeared in the Supreme Court representing Mrs Clayton in this landmark case which resulted in two judgments. This case involved a large number of family trusts created during the course of a long marriage.  The complexity is reflected in the fact that the hearing took three full days of hearing time before the Supreme Court.  Commentators have referred to this case as “rewriting the legal landscape” in regard to relationship property and trusts.  Mrs Clayton with Deborah’s advocacy was successful in regard to all of her major claims. SC 38 2015 – Clayton v Clayton (substantive)
  • Clayton v Clayton [2015] NZCA 30. Deborah also appeared for Mrs Clayton in the Court of Appeal.  The issues included company valuation issues in regard to a substantial saw milling business as well as the operation of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 in regard to trusts formed during a marriage.  Subsequently, the husband sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in regard to all issues decided by the Court of Appeal.  He was given limited leave in regard to some issues.  Mrs Clayton was also granted leave to proceed with a cross-appeal.  Clayton v Clayton [2015] NZCA 30
  • Thompson v Thompson [2014] NZCA 117, [2014] 2 NZLR 741, and Thompson v Thompson [2015] NZSC 26, [2015] 1 NZLR 593.  Deborah appeared for the husband, Mr Thompson, in regard to this litigation which involved a single asset dispute being the categorisation of a restraint of trade payment paid to the husband four and a half years after separation when the business, commenced during the marriage, was sold to a private equity firm.  All other issues in regard to relationship property and trust property had been settled, but the issue of categorisation of the restraint of trade payment was complex and resulted in litigation at all four Court levels.  Mr Thompson was successful in the Family Court, High Court and Court of Appeal.  However, the Supreme Court ruled that although the restraint of trade payment was Mr Thompson’s separate property, it was appropriate to use a discretion provided under s 9(4) of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 to reclassify it as relationship property. Thompson v Thompson [2015] NZSC 26
  • Dixon v Kingsley [2015] NZFC 5135,Dixon v Kingsley [2015] NZFC 9596 and Dixon v Kingsley [2015] NZHC 2044, [2015] NZFLR 1012. In these proceedings, Deborah represented the wife.  The Family Court decision is a key decision in terms of compensation for post-separation contribution.  In this case, Deborah argued successfully that the wife who was looking after the two sons of the marriage full-time without any real assistance from her former husband, and running a successful business, which had increased in value since separation, should receive a large compensation payment for that post-separation effort.  The Family Court awarded the wife $750,000 in regard to her post-separation contribution.  This award is well in excess of any awards previously awarded under this section.  The husband has appealed.  The appeal is due to proceed later in 2016.  An interlocutory appeal to the High Court between the same parties concerned the rules in regard to discovery in relationship property proceedings and in particular the degree of relevance required before disclosure would be directed.  The decision by Kos J is now the key decision in regard to discovery in relationship property proceedings.  Anonymised copy of judgment of Brown DCJ v3 (3)
  • Deborah appeared in the Supreme Court representing Auckland Council in Down v R [2012] NZSC 21, [2012] 2 NZLR 585.
  • Heatley v Heatley [2012] NZHC 537,[2012] NZFLR 688, which concerned the jurisdiction of the Family Court to transfer complex relationship property proceedings to the High Court.
  • Simpson v Walker [2012] NZCA 191, (2012) 28 FRNZ 815, claim against trustees and solicitors for breach of fiduciary duties and negligence in respect of an estate.
  • C v G [2010], NZCA 128, [2010] NZFLR 497 (CA), maintenance of former partner; period of liability; the major decision in regard to the interconnection between maintenance and relationship property agreements.
  • M v B [2006] 3 NZLR 660 (CA), [2006] NZFLR 641, which was the first major case dealing with Z v Z, economic disparity,long term spousal maintenance, and “relationship property” in a mirror trust.
  • D v C [2002] NZFLR 97 (CA), which is a key authority on the operation of the Child Support Act.
  • Z v Z [1997] 2 NZLR 258 (CA), claim for future earnings and valuation of the husband’s partnership share in an international accountancy firm.

Qualifications and Career

  • Member of the New Zealand Law Society Practice Approval Committee (from 2012).
  • Member of the Auckland Law School Innovation and Development Fund Campaign Committee (2009-present).
  • Board of Trustees of the National Provident Fund (2003-2008).
  • Member of Auckland CHE Review Committee dealing with consumers’ complaints and systems failures since 1996 and chairperson (1998-2004).
  • President of Auckland Women Lawyers Association (2002).
  • Member of the Council for New Zealand Bar Association (1998-2002).
  • Member of the Crown Prosecution panel in Auckland.


Deborah has delivered papers at numerous conferences and written articles on a wide variety of legal topics.