The Civil Union law came into force in April 2005 and aims to give different sex couples who do not wish to marry a way to get formal recognition of their relationship, and same sex couples a way of formally solemnising their relationship.

Some important points about the law are:

  1. The Civil Union Act reinforces Parliament’s intention that marriage is available solely to a man and a woman, but it is also part of Parliament’s objective of creating a positive human rights culture in New Zealand.
  2. The vow that creates a civil union is when the parties say to each other, “I John Brown acknowledge that I am freely joining in a civil union with you, Sarah Smith” or words to that effect, in front of two witnesses and a civil union celebrant, registrar or other authorised person.
  3. Both same sex and different sex couples can enter into a civil union.
  4. A marriage can be converted to a civil union by giving notice that the couple want to make the change and by having a civil union ceremony.
  5. A civil union can only be converted into a marriage by different sex couples.
  6. Civil unions are registered just like marriages.
  7. Civil union divorce will follow the same rules as for marriages, requiring a two-year separation period.
  8. Any person 18 years or older can enter into a civil union.
  9. A person who is 16 or 17 years old can have a civil union as long as that person has the consent of each of his or her guardians in writing.
  10. A person who is married or in a civil union cannot enter into a second civil union.  They could be charged with bigamy.
  11. The free counselling service available through the Family Court has been extended to include parties to a civil union and parties to a de facto relationship.

If you require further information on civil unions or any other family law matter, or you would like to arrange an initial consultation, contact us on (04) 473 6850.

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.