By Jesil Cajes, Solicitor, McWilliam Tyree Lawyers, Wellington

Many people currently living in New Zealand got married to their spouse overseas- either because they are migrants to New Zealand or because New Zealanders have travelled and then returned home. Sadly, some of those marriages come to an end. At McWilliam Tyree we are frequently approached by clients asking if their overseas marriage can be formally dissolved in New Zealand.

Yes, they can be provided certain criteria are met. Those criteria are that New Zealand must be the permanent home of either you or your spouse at the time that you apply for dissolution of your marriage, and you have been living apart for at least two years. A “dissolution of a marriage or a civil union” is the legal term used in New Zealand for the process commonly referred to as “divorce”.

It is easier to get a divorce in New Zealand compared to some other jurisdictions or countries for the following reasons:

  1. New Zealand is a “no fault” jurisdiction for dissolution, and so you are not required to give reasons for the dissolution, and no one needs to accept “blame”. the only requirement is that the parties have been separated for two years prior to the application. There are no exceptions to the 2 year rule.
  2. You or your spouse does not need to attend the hearing or to court if both parties agree to the application.  

The process is a straightforward one and so it can be faster to get a divorce in New Zealand. If both parties live in New Zealand, the order can be made within 21 days; if one of the parties lives in Australia, it is 30 days and the rest of the world is fifty days. It is important to know however that in New Zealand the dissolution of marriage is an entirely separate issue and process to making arrangements or your children following a separation or dividing your relationship property. If you have these issues to resolve it is important to consult with a lawyer.

How to Apply

To get a divorce, you need to apply to the Family Court. The process will depend on the type of application. There are two types of application: joint or single. If you both want a divorce, you and your spouse can apply with a joint application. You can complete the application even if one of you is outside New Zealand.

If only one of you wants a divorce, or only one of you wants to apply, then one spouse can apply alone (this is called a one-party or single application). The other spouse is then served with copies of the application and is given a time to respond, depending on where you live. If you agree with the application, you can simply let the Orders be made. In most cases, single applications are not opposed, and it is rarely necessary to attend Court.

However, if you do not agree with the application, you can file a Notice of Defence and an Affidavit.  You will be required to attend Court where a Judge will make a decision. We recommend to consult a lawyer if this happens.

When can parties enter into a new relationship?

Parties can enter into new relationship at any time.  However, if any of the parties want to get married again or enter into a new civil union, they will have to wait until after the Order becomes final. The lawyers at McWilliam Tyree have assisted many clients dissolving their marriage both in New Zealand and overseas. McWilliam Tyree specialises in dissolution. Book an appointment with us.