Making a separation agreement

You don’t need the other person to agree to separate. If you decide to end the relationship, this is enough – regardless of what the other person wants.

If you’re thinking of leaving your partner, and you have concerns about your safety, please reach out to support organisations (see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page). You can also read more about your options at “Family violence and elder abuse”.

Why make a separation agreement?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 39(3)

A separation agreement is an agreement that says that you and your partner have decided to break up. You don’t have to have a separation agreement, but it can be a useful record of the decisions the two of you make when you separate – for example, about:

The agreement usually includes the date on which you agreed to separate. If you are married or in a civil union and you later decide to apply for a divorce (“dissolution”), you can use the separation agreement as evidence that you’ve lived apart for the necessary two years (see: “Divorce: Getting a Dissolution Order”).

How do we make a separation agreement?

Property (Relationships) Act 1976, ss 21A, 21F Family Court Act 1980, s 15(c)

You can write up your own separation agreement. If your agreement is going to deal with relationship property, it has to follow the form required by the Property (Relationships) Act:

  • it has to be in writing and signed by each of you, and
  • each of you must have had independent legal advice, and
  • each of your signatures must be witnessed by a lawyer, and
  • the lawyer who witnesses your signature has to certify that they explained to you about the effect and implications of the agreement.

You can register your separation agreement with the Family Court, as a “Consent Order”. This means that if anything goes wrong, it can be enforced in the same way as a court order.

The law dealing with couples and break-ups still formally includes the concept of a “Separation Order”. This is an order made by a Family Court Judge saying that there’s such a “state of disharmony” between a married or civil union couple that there’s now no “obligation” for them to live together. Separation Orders are now almost never made, as they’re an old-fashioned concept that has little relevance to modern New Zealand life. However, separation agreements (see above) continue to be used as a practical way for couples to record the decisions they make when they split up.

Did this answer your question?

Relationships and break-ups

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online:

Family Court

This Family Court provides a range of information relevant to adult relationships, including information on separation, dissolution, relationship property and the relevant court processes.

Application for a dissolution of marriage (divorce):

Births, Death & Marriages (Department of Internal Affairs)

Births, Death and Marriages have information about marriages and civil unions. You can also apply online for your marriage licence or download the application forms.

Phone: 0800 22 52 52

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens when your relationship ends.

Information on separation, divorce, care of children and maintenance:

Information on dividing up relationship property:

Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)

Relationships often have a significant impact on personal finances. For information on how your changing relationship status might affect what benefits you are entitled to, contact Work and Income.

Phone: 0800 559 009

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