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Applying for a divorce

After you’ve been separated for at least 2 years, you can apply for a divorce through the Family Court. There are eligibility criteria to meet and an application fee when you apply.

Before you apply

Before you apply for a divorce, known as a dissolution order, through the Family Court, you need to:

  • be separated or living apart from your partner for at least 2 years. You can live together for a total of 3 months during this time if you’ve been trying to fix your relationship
  • be domiciled in New Zealand, which means that, for you or your partner, New Zealand is your permanent home even if you’ve been living overseas for a time
  • have agreed on the care of your children.

Read more information about:

Who can apply

You can apply for a divorce together when you both agree to divorce, or you can apply for a divorce on your own. Read more information on the Ministry of Justice's website:

How to apply

To get a divorce, you apply to the Family Court for a dissolution order.

Fill in the forms

You will need to provide the following documentation:

  • a joint or 1-party application for divorce, depending on whether you’re applying together or on your own
  • an original or certified copy of your marriage or civil union certificate
  • proof that you’ve been separated for 2 years, which can be:
    • a copy of your separation agreement or separation order
    • other evidence that shows you’re separated
    • a declaration that you’ve lived apart for 2 years.

Apply for a divorce — Ministry of Justice

File your application

You’ll need to give, or file, your application and documents by hand or by post to any Family Court office.

If you’re applying for a divorce on your own, the divorce documents must be given, or served, to your ex-partner by someone else (not you) and you must prove to the court that your ex-partner was given the documents.

Read more information on the Ministry of Justice’s website about how to serve divorce documents and what happens if you don’t know where your ex-partner is living.

What it costs

There’s a fee for the dissolution order. You’ll have to pay your lawyer’s fees, if you use one, and you might also have to pay extra towards costs of your case.

Divorce forms and fees — Ministry of Justice

What happens next

Applying for a divorce together

If you’ve made a joint application and have decided to:

  • not appear in court, the court will check your forms and make the dissolution order. Your divorce will take effect 1 month after the date the order is made
  • appear in court together, the judge makes the dissolution order and your divorce will be official immediately.

Applying for a divorce on your own

If you’ve applied on your own, your ex-partner can choose to defend the application or do nothing. If they want to defend it, they must respond within a certain amount of time.

Time frames for responding — Ministry of Justice

If they do nothing within that time, the court will check your application, making sure it meets all the requirements, and make the dissolution order. The divorce will take effect 1 month after the dissolution order is made.

If they choose to defend the application, you’ll both have to appear before a Family Court judge. The judge will hear from both of you and decide if there are grounds to make the dissolution order.

Respond to divorce papers — Ministry of Justice

After the dissolution order takes effect

Once the order takes effect:

  • a copy will be posted to you and your ex-partner
  • you can remarry or enter into a new civil union.

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