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Ending a marriage and getting a divorce

I want to end my marriage and get a divorce, but I don’t know where to start.


Once you are at the point where you have decided to end your marriage, it is advisable to talk to a specialist relationship property solicitor early on, who can inform you of your legal rights and entitlements under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (“the Act”).

The Act dictates how your relationship assets and debt will be distributed after separation, and how specific issues relevant to your relationship are to be dealt with.

Relationship property information (called disclosure) is gathered by each party to determine the relationship property pool to be distributed. This includes information such as Kiwisaver and bank account balances, vehicle values and hire purchase or personal loan debt.

A Separation Agreement is drafted and each party is to have their own solicitor so they can receive independent legal advice prior to signing the Agreement.

Dissolution of Marriage

In New Zealand, people who are either married or in a civil union, cannot get a divorce until two years (or more) after the date they separated. It is advisable that a Separation Agreement has been (or is in the process of being) signed before any divorce documents are filed in the Family Court.

An application for a divorce can be made by either partner on grounds that the relationship has broken down irreconcilably, providing that parties have been separated and living apart for two years or more.

The process is generally easy to follow, and you don’t need a solicitor or legal advice to apply for a divorce as all the information is publicly available on the Ministry of Justice website.

If you both agree to a divorce, you can make a joint application in the Family Court, file your documents and pay the $211.50 filing fee.

If you both cannot agree on getting a divorce, one party can make a single application and the documents will be served on the other party once the Family Court has acknowledged the application.

When filing a single application, the other party can either let the divorce go through and the Court will make a dissolution order, or they can choose to defend the divorce being made final and file a Notice of Defence along with an Affidavit setting out the reasons why a divorce should not be granted.

If a Notice of Defence is filed, then the Court will set down a defended hearing before a Family Court Judge. The Judge will hear from both parties and decide if there are grounds to make the dissolution order.

Need help with starting divorce proceedings?

We can prepare and file divorce documents in the Family Court on your behalf to take the stress out of the process and/or dealing with your ex-partner. Please contact us to discuss any relationship property or divorce matters and how we can help you through the separation process.


This article is by Rachel Cooper -