The things you need to know about getting a divorce in New Zealand

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How do I get divorced in New Zealand? This is unfortunately a question some of us will have to ask this year. In 2013 8,279 married couples were granted divorces in New Zealand so about 9.4 divorces for every 1,000 estimated existing marriages.

The only ground for a divorce in NZ is that your marriage has broken down and is at an end. If you have recently become aware that your marriage is at an end talk with a trusted friend or family member first. If you do decide to divorce you need to prove the marriage is at an end and the only way to prove this is by living apart for at least two years. This can include brief periods of living together for a total of three months or less if the court is satisfied that these were attempts at getting back together and reconcile during this time. Once you’ve been separated for two years you can contact the Family Court to apply for dissolution of marriage. You and your spouse can apply together with a joint application, or you can apply alone. The process for applying varies depending on whether you are applying jointly or singly, and whether the other party agrees or disagrees with your divorce application.


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This week disputes resolution expert Melinda Li answers a few questions surrounding divorce in NZ. Read this article as a print and tablet friendly PDF here. Read more about Melinda here

Read more articles by Melinda click here.

First of all, in legal terms, getting a divorce is called dissolving a marriage or civil union and in New Zealand, the Family Court can end your marriage or civil union by making a Dissolution Order, not issuing a divorce certificate that some other countries do.

Can I get a divorce here in NZ if I was married overseas?

Yes, if at least one of you has been domiciled in New Zealand when applying for the divorce (dissolution of marriage). In general, domicile means that New Zealand is your permanent home and you have intention to live here for an indefinite time.

If my spouse had an affair before we separated, do I get more relationship property?

Unlike some other countries (e.g China, Japan, France), a New Zealand court may not take any misconduct of a spouse into account when the relationship property is being divided unless extraordinary circumstances can be found which will make a 50/50 split repugnant to justice. Misconduct may be taken into account in determining the contribution of a spouse to the marriage. However, such misconduct must be gross and palpable. Affairs normally do not fall into either of the two categories.

I am not the registered proprietor of the house that we live in together. Is the house relationship property?

If your name is not on the mortgage or certificate of title , that does not mean that you have no rights or claims to the property. Under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, a Family Home means “the dwelling/house that either or both of the spouses or partners use habitually or from time to time as the only or principal family residence, together with any land, buildings, or improvements appurtenant to that dwelling/house and used wholly or principally for the purposes of the household.” Therefore, unless there is a prenuptial relationship property agreement in place (also known as a “Contracting Out Agreement”) which precludes the house from the relationship property, it will be relationship property.

Private child support arrangement or get IRD to assess?

Parents can agree to fund their children’s day to day needs and other expenses between themselves and include those arrangements as a part of the separation agreement. If there is no agreement or no agreement can be reached, then the custodial parent can get the state child support agency, IRD, to determine the non-custodial parent’s obligations, by a “formula assessment” pursuant to the Child Support Act. The child support payments then get deducted from the non-custodial parent’s salary/wages on a monthly basis by his/her employer unless there are further changes of circumstances.

If you have any questions in relation to the dissolution of a marriage or civil union in New Zealand please do not hesitate to contact us in complete confidence.