For a growing number of UK ex-pats in New Zealand, the question will arise, upon separation, as to where the divorce or dissolution should occur.  You don’t have to divorce in the same place that you married.

A choice of which jurisdiction to divorce in isn’t available to everyone in these circumstances.  To apply for a divorce in the UK, if you haven’t already returned to live there, either your spouse will need to be living in the UK, or you or your spouse must be domiciled there. 

Note however that if you are reliant on domicile in this regard, there are special considerations as to whether any other EU country has jurisdiction.

The UK divorce process is much quicker.  If you are eligible to apply for divorce in the UK, you could be fully divorced within around 8 months, provided everyone complies with the process, and there are no substantial delays in Court.

By contrast, in New Zealand, a divorce (known as a dissolution here) can only be sought after you and your spouse have been separated for two years. The application process takes around six to eight weeks.

Neither the UK nor New Zealand has any regard for fault-based divorce, for example infidelity.  This has been the case in New Zealand since 1980, and the UK since 2022.  So, the “blame game” makes no difference in either jurisdiction.

It is important to be aware, however, that whether you seek a divorce in the UK or a dissolution in New Zealand, this is just the paperwork that ends your marriage. 

An application to divide your finances is a different thing, and even when the divorce occurs in the UK, an application to divide finances can be filed in New Zealand, and vice versa. 

It is worth noting however that if you intend to divide your relationship property in the UK Courts, you should also divorce in the UK Courts, as the right to make an application to the UK Courts to divide relationship property after a non-UK divorce is currently a question before the UK Court of Appeal. 

Further information can be found on dividing your finances here.

Given the nuances between the jurisdictions, if you have the option regarding where to divorce, as well as assets to be divided between you, it is wise to seek legal advice.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.