Dissolution of a marriage or civil union is the legal term for what is commonly known as divorce.  A dissolution is formalised by way of an order from the Family Court.

In order to apply for a dissolution, one or both parties must be ‘domiciled’ in New Zealand but the marriage does not need to have taken place here. A person’s domicile is the country they treat as their permanent home, (this is not necessarily the country they are living in). The spouses or partners can either apply jointly for an order, or one party can apply against the other and have them served with the application. 

The only ground upon which you can seek a dissolution is that the marriage or civil union has broken down irreconcilably. To prove this, you must have been living apart for the period of at least two years immediately prior to the filing of the application.

The process of a dissolution depends on various factors, including whether the application is filed jointly or separately, whether a party being served with an application is overseas, whether a defence is filed and whether either party wishes to appear in Court (which is not mandatory). There is a filing fee that usually must be paid with the application, and the Court will want some information on the care arrangements for any minor children of the marriage or civil union.

A dissolution order does not determine any relationship property issues, but it does mean that the 12 month time limit for filing an application to divide relationship property starts running. The Court can allow an application to be filed out of time in limited circumstances, but it is recommended that you get advice on any unresolved relationship property matters sooner rather than later.  

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions in relation to dissolution or relationship property. 

David Tyree
Family Lawyer
Wellington