Obtaining a formal divorce (dissolution) involves an application being made to the Family Court and payment of a filing fee. This can either be done jointly with your spouse or partner or separately. If it is done separately, you will usually need to have the other person personally served with the proceedings before a dissolution order is made.

At least one of you needs to be domiciled in New Zealand in order to make the application, but it is not necessary for you to have been married here. Your domicile is the country you treat as your permanent home, which is not necessarily the country you are currently living in. This means that you may still be able to apply for a dissolution in New Zealand if you are living abroad, as long as you (or the other party) are domiciled here.   

New Zealand operates a ‘no fault’ divorce system, and the only ground upon which you can apply for a dissolution order is that the marriage or civil union has broken down irreconcilably. You must have been living apart for a period of at least two years immediately prior to the filing of the application as evidence of this.

Unless one person defends the application it is not necessary for you to appear in court, although you can do so if you wish.

In many cases, it is advisable to have resolved relationship property issues before applying for dissolution, as once a dissolution order is made there is a 12-month time limit for filing an application to divide relationship property. In limited circumstances, the court may allow an application to be filed out of time, but this is not guaranteed and it is important that you obtain legal advice in this respect.

If you would like any further information or advice, please contact our Wellington based family lawyers Debbie Dunbar, email debbie.dunbar@morrisonkent.com, phone (04) 495 9940 or Maretta Twentyman, email maretta.twentyman@morrisonkent.com, phone (04) 495 8918.

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