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Before you apply

After you’ve been separated for at least 2 years, you can apply for a divorce. There is a fee for the dissolution order.

You have to be separated for at least 2 years before you can get divorced. You can live together for a total of 3 months during this time if you’ve been trying to fix your relationship.

Separating from your spouse or partner

If you both live overseas

At least one of you must be domiciled in New Zealand, which means that New Zealand is your permanent home, even if you are or have been living overseas for a time.

How to apply

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

You’ll have to prove that you’ve been separated for 2 years. Proof of your separation can be:

  • a separation agreement (as long as you agreed an official separation date when you separated, this counts as an agreement, even if you didn’t put it in writing)
  • a separation order
  • other evidence that shows you’re separated
  • a declaration that you’ve lived apart for the required amount of time.

How to apply for a divorce

If you have children, you should agree how they’ll be cared for before you apply for a divorce.

Care of children

If you both want a divorce

You both need to complete the forms and affidavits for the dissolution order and deliver them to the Family Court. You don't have to appear in court, but you can choose to if you want to.

When you both want a divorce 

If only one of you wants a divorce

You can apply on your own, but you have to make sure your husband, wife or civil union partner receives the documents. You can't give them the documents yourself — your lawyer or another person has to do it.

If you want to serve documents on someone who lives overseas, you'll need to arrange for somebody in that country to personally serve them.

When only one of you wants a divorce

If you don't know where your ex-partner is living

If you’re applying for a dissolution order and don’t know where your husband, wife or partner is living, you may need to ask the court if you can change the way the application is served.

When you don't know where the other person 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 (you do not have to) and you might also have to pay extra towards costs of your case.

Divorce forms and fees

What happens next

If you’ve made a joint application, a registrar will check your forms and make the dissolution order. Your divorce will take effect 1 month after the order is made.

If you appear in court together and the judge makes the dissolution order, your divorce will be official immediately.

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 have to do so within:

  • 21 days if they live in New Zealand
  • 30 days if they live in Australia, or
  • 50 days if they live anywhere else in the world.

If they do nothing within that time, your application will go to the registrar to check, and 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.

If the judge makes the dissolution order, it will take effect 1 month after the order is made.

You can remarry or enter into a new civil union as soon as the dissolution order takes effect.

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