Applying for a Dissolution of Marriage
You may apply for a dissolution (or divorce, as it is more commonly known) in New Zealand provided that one of you is “domiciled” in New Zealand at the time the application is made and you have been separated for 2 years or more. You are classed as “domiciled” in New Zealand if:
- You were born in NZ and have not made a home in another country with the intention of living in that country indefinitely; or
- You were born overseas but you have made a home in NZ with the intention of living here indefinitely.
Irreconcilable differences is the only ground for legally dissolving a marriage in NZ. This means that your relationship has broken down and is at an end. The only way of proving your relationship has broken down irreconcilably is by living apart for two years. If you resumed your relationship during this two year period, as long as it was not for longer than three months, the two period remains intact.
There are two ways to apply for a dissolution in New Zealand – a joint or a single application. The most cost effective option is making a joint application where both parties agree. Both of you would sign the Court documentation and file it in Court. Once filed and processed by the Court, the documents sit in Court for one month, after which time a final Dissolution Order is made. A single application is where only one party makes the application. This is usually done where one of the parties does not want a divorce and is not agreeable to signing the documentation. Once a single application is filed in Court, a copy is served on the other party who then has a period of time in which to defend the application. If no defence is filed, the Court will make a final Dissolution Order. If a defence is filed, the matter will require a hearing for the Court to make a decision about whether a Dissolution Order should be granted.
In terms of cost, our fees for a joint application are usually approximately $850 (plus GST and disbursements). If a unilateral (single) application is made, the cost will be most likely be in the region of $1,200 (plus GST and disbursements). If the other party resides overseas and a single application is being made, you will also need to make an application for the Court’s permission to serve a party overseas. There will be an additional cost in respect of this. These fee estimates are on the basis that matters proceed in a relatively straightforward manner.
For both types of applications, the following disbursement costs will apply:
- Court filing fee $211.50
- Original marriage certificate from Births Deaths and Marriages (if you don’t have it) $26.50
- Service agent (for single applications only) $140 (or higher if the other party resides overseas or evades service)
Frequently Asked Questions
In New Zealand you must be separated from your spouse (or civil union partner) for a period of two years before you can apply to have your marriage (or civil union) dissolved. Once that time period has expired the parties are free to apply to the Family Court for an order dissolving their marriage.
An application to the Family Court is required and one party must be domiciled in New Zealand at the time the application is made. The application may be made by either one party on their own or by both parties jointly. The latter is generally more cost effective and will be processed more quickly by the Court. There is a filing fee payable at the time the application is made.
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