Whilst movies and TV shows lead us to believe that “getting a divorce” is all very simple and straightforward, in New Zealand this is quite often not the case.
In New Zealand, the legal term for “getting a divorce” is being granted a Dissolution Order by the Family Court. To qualify you must have been separated for two years or more; one of you must be living in New Zealand, and if there are children of the marriage, arrangements must have been made for their welfare and day-to-day care.It is also important to note than in New Zealand there is no requirement to allocate fault for the divorce like in some countries. The New Zealand Courts are not concerned with the reasons for the divorce or apportioning blame.
There is also a slightly different process depending on whether or not both of you apply together, or only one of you makes the application.
If you are applying together, you will need to fill out a joint application form and attach an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, and a copy of your separation agreement to prove you have been living apart for at least two years. This is filed in Court with a filing fee of $211.50. Provided all of the forms have been filled out correctly, the Court will make the Dissolution Order. You will be legally divorced one month after the date the Order is made…. and free to remarry!
If only one of you applies, you still fill in all the forms and file in the Family Court. But the Court will then provide you with a set of documents which you need to ‘serve’ on your ex-partner.
Service of the documents needs to be done in person and by someone other than yourself. The person serving the documents will have to get your ex-partner to confirm that they accept service of the documents, and then file an affidavit of service with the Court. If you don’t know where your ex-partner is living, then you will need to make an application for substituted service, meaning you are allowed to serve them in a different way (i.e. via email), or on one of their family members.
Once served, your ex-partner has 21 days to decide if they want to oppose the divorce. If they do then you will both need to appear before a Judge who will decide whether or not to grant the divorce. If your ex-partner does not want to oppose your application then after the 21days have expired, the Court will make the Dissolution Order and one month later you will be legally divorced.