A “dissolution of a marriage or a civil union” is the legal term used in New Zealand for the process commonly referred to as “divorce”.

To have your marriage or civil union dissolved in New Zealand, you must apply to the Family Court for an Order for the Dissolution of a Marriage or Civil Union.

Who can apply for a dissolution?

To apply for a dissolution of marriage or civil union in New Zealand, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The marriage or civil union must have broken down irreconcilably, in the sense that the parties have been living apart for at least two years.  Evidence of this must be included in your application (for instance recorded in separation agreement or by way of sworn evidence from the parties).
  • At least one partner must be living in New Zealand (it does not matter if the parties entered into the marriage or civil union outside of New Zealand).
  • There are arrangements in place for the day-to-day care and welfare for the children of the marriage or civil union, who are under the age of 16 years.

A copy of the marriage certificate or civil union licence must also be supplied with the application.

What about periods of reconciliation during separation?

It is not uncommon for parties who have separated to briefly reconcile or attempt reconciliation.  The law recognises this reality and allows for periods of up three months of reconciliation to be disregarded in calculating the required two years of living apart. 

In other words, as long as the parties do not resume living together for more than three months after being separated, they will still be considered as having lived apart for two whole years.

How is an Order for Dissolution made?

An application for a dissolution of marriage or civil union can be made jointly or separately.  Several formal court documents are required, including:

  • an Application;
  • an Affidavit;
  • an Information sheet;
  • A Notice to the Respondent (if a single application); and
  • Evidence of service (if a single application). 

A joint application is made by both parties of the marriage or civil union, and generally involves a more straightforward process to get the Order.

A separate application is typically used in situations where one partner does not agree to the separation or they cannot be located, or there are communication or safety issues between the partners.

If a separate application is made, the non-applicant party (known as the respondent) will be served with copies of the application, and will have twenty-one days to respond (unless they are overseas, in which case they will have more time).

There are strict requirements for how to serve documents, so if you are not sure, seek advice or instruct a service agent. 

How to respond to Application for Dissolution:

If you are not the applicant, you should be served with copies of the application and be given twenty-one days to respond.  If you are served in Australia you will have thirty days to respond, and if you are elsewhere, you will have fifty days.

If you agree with the application, you can simply let the Orders be made. 

If you do not agree with the application, you can file a Notice of Defence and an Affidavit.  You will be required to attend Court where a Judge will make a decision. 

When will the parties be required to attend Court?

In most cases, single applications are not opposed and it is rarely necessary to attend Court.  If the parties do not want to go to Court (as joint applicants, a single applicant or a respondent who does not oppose the application), they can let the Court know that they agree for the Order to be made in their absence.

If a Court Registrar agrees to make an Order, there will be a one month period before the Order becomes final. 

If one of the parties opposed the application, or wants to be heard by the Judge first, both parties must go to Court and the matter will be dealt with by a Judge instead.  If a Judge makes the Order, it will become final at the hearing.

When can parties enter into a new relationship?

Parties can enter into new relationship at any time.  However, if any of the parties want to get married again or enter into a new civil union, they will have to wait until after the Order becomes final.

TIP: Make sure relationship property is resolved prior to the dissolution.

From the date the dissolution is finalised, the parties will have twelve months to make an application to the Court to assist in the division of their relationship property.  Therefore, it is a good idea to resolve any relationship property issues before making an application for the dissolution of a marriage or civil union.  If not, you may be have to ask for leave from the Court to apply out of time. 

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 of family law specialists who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.