There are a few hoops to jump through to be able to divorce your spouse or civil union partner. To get divorced in New Zealand you need to make an application to the Family Court.  The term used by the Family Court to describe divorce is “dissolution”.   

In order to apply for a dissolution, at least one of the parties must be living in New Zealand at the time the application is filed, and the parties must have been separated for at least two years before making the application.  If at any time during the separation the parties get back together, the period of reconciliation must not be for more than three months at any one time. 

When making an application for dissolution, the parties must confirm that the reason for the application is that the relationship has broken down irreconcilably. 

If the parties have lived apart for two years, then this will be considered sufficient evidence that the relationship has broken down irreconcilably.  For this reason, it is generally a good idea to make a note of when you separated or even record a separation agreement.  This can be used as evidence to be provided with the application for dissolution.

An application for dissolution can be made jointly, or by one of the parties.  A joint application is often more straightforward, but sometimes if the parties are not in communication or not aware of each other’s whereabouts, a sole application will be necessary.

A sole application must be served on the other party in accordance with the rules of service.    A professional service agent can be used, but this will be at a cost.  You can also serve the documents yourself, or ask a friend to do it, but you should make sure that you follow the correct rules, otherwise the Court will not progress the application. 

If you are unable to locate the other party, you may need legal assistance to ask the Court’s permission to dispense with service or change the requirements of service.

With your application you will also need to provide a copy of your marriage or civil union certificate and any separation agreement.

You will also need to satisfy the Court that you have made arrangements for the care and maintenance of any dependent children of the relationship.

Generally parties do not need to attend the Court if they notify the Court that they agree to an Order being made in their absence. 

A filing fee is payable alongside an application.  This fee may vary from time to time, but presently it is $211.50.  In some circumstances the Court may agree to waive the fee. 

Once your application has been determined, and approved, an Order for the dissolution of the marriage or civil union will be made.  You will receive a copy of this Order, which you can use of evidence of the dissolution.

Once the marriage or civil union has been dissolved, the parties will only have twelve months to make an application to the Court to assist with a relationship property dispute, so it is a good idea to resolve those matters before getting the marriage or civil union dissolved (if possible).  The Court may grant leave to apply for an order out of time, in limited cases.

Jaenine Badenhorst

Family Lawyer