A dissolution of marriage (more commonly known as divorce) is an order obtained through the Family Court which brings a marriage to an end.
In New Zealand, there is only one ground for a dissolution which is “irreconcilable differences.” A party’s conduct leading to the break down of the relationship is irrelevant for the purposes of obtaining a divorce. Irreconcilable differences are evidenced by the parties to the marriage living apart for a period of two years prior to the application for the dissolution being filed. An application for dissolution will not be accepted by the Court unless the parties can establish that they have been living apart for at least two years.
A divorce can be applied for either jointly or unilaterally by one party. The relevant paperwork can be collected from the local Family Court, or by approaching a Family Lawyer. One or both parties to the marriage must be living in New Zealand at the time of the application for the papers to be filed in a New Zealand Court.
An application filed jointly must be signed by both parties to the marriage, and an affidavit (written evidence) attaching the marriage certificate must be filed alongside the application. There is a current filing fee of $211.50 that must be paid to the Court to file the application for dissolution. A joint application will be considered by the Court to be an undefended proceeding and the dissolution order can be made without the need for either party to physically appear in Court.
If a party (“the Applicant”) wishes to file the application unilaterally, they need to file an application and affidavit which both need to be served on the other party to the marriage (“the Respondent”) by a person other than the Applicant. Once the Respondent has been served, an affidavit of service must be filed by the person who served the Respondent as proof that both parties are now aware of the application being made. A unilateral application will still incur the Court filing fee. The Respondent will then have a Court directed time frame in which to file any defence to the application in the unlikely event that there are appropriate grounds to contest the dissolution. Alternatively, the Respondent can choose not to contest the application, and the matter will be disposed of on the papers.
Once the correct application and supporting documentation has been filed, and any timeframe for filing a defence has elapsed, the Court will issue the Dissolution Order, unless either party has indicated they wish to appear in Court.
Once a Dissolution Order has been issued, the parties are no longer legally married, although the Order usually takes effect one month after it has been issued by the Court.
If you are seeking a Dissolution Order and have any questions, consult your local Family Court or your Family Lawyer.