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Communtity Law Manual | Relationships & break-ups | Applying for a dissolution

Divorce: Getting a “dissolution” order

Applying for a dissolution

The two of you can apply for a dissolution order together, or one of you can apply alone.

You apply to the Family Court. You can get copies of the application forms from the Family Court, or you can download them from: www.justice.govt.nz/family/separation-divorce/apply-for-a-divorce

Applying for a dissolution is relatively simple, and you don’t need a lawyer. Making a joint application together is the simpler and faster way – it can usually be dealt with by the Family Court Registrar without a hearing and without you having to go in to the court at all. A “single application” is when you apply for a dissolution on your own, which might be because your ex-partner doesn’t agree to the dissolution, or because you don’t know where they are. With a single application, the process is a little more involved.

At the time the application is made, at least one of you must be living in New Zealand.

Note: Often when an application has been made for a dissolution and the couple have children, the Family Court will refer the couple to attend a Parenting Through Separation course.

How much does it cost to apply for a dissolution?

Family Courts Fees Regulations 2009, reg 5, Schedule 1; Legal Services Act 2011, s 7(5)(e)

You’ll have to pay a filing fee of $211.50.

If either party chooses to see a lawyer, they will also have to pay their lawyer’s fees. Legal aid is not available for the dissolution itself but may be available for other related family issues, such as care of children or relationship property disputes.

Applying together: Joint applications

How do we make a joint application for dissolution?

If you both agree to getting a divorce (a dissolution), you can make one application between you. Joint applications are simpler and faster and can usually be dealt with by the Family Court registrar without a hearing and without you having to go in to the court.

You’ll need to complete the following documents and file them with the Family Court:

  • Joint application for order dissolving marriage or civil union (Form FP13) – Here you should include details of the arrangements you’ve made for the care and financial support of your children, if you have them.
  • Affidavit to accompany joint application for order dissolving marriage or civil union (Form FP14) – An affidavit is a written statement setting out the facts that support your application, which are that you’ve been living apart for two years and you’ve made arrangements for your children. The affidavit has to be signed and sworn (or affirmed) in front of a lawyer, justice of the peace or court registrar.
  • Information sheet (Form G7).

You can download those three forms as a single pack (Pack 2) from: www.justice.govt.nz/family/separation-divorce/apply-for-a-divorce/

You also have to attach these documents to the affidavit:

  • your original marriage or civil union certificate, or a certified copy of the certificate, marked as “Exhibit A”
  • any separation agreement (or separation order, but these are very rare), marked as “Exhibit B”.

Applying by yourself: Single applications

How do I make a single application for dissolution?

A single application is when you apply for a divorce (dissolution) on your own, rather than the two of you making a joint application. This might be because the other person doesn’t agree to the dissolution, or because you don’t know where they are.

You’ll need to complete the following documents, file them with the Family Court, and then give copies to your ex-partner:

  • Application by one party for order dissolving marriage or civil union (Form FP11) – Here you should include details of the arrangements you’ve made for the care and financial support of your children if you have them.
  • Affidavit to accompany application by one party for order dissolving marriage or civil union (Form FP12) – An affidavit is a written statement setting out the facts that support your application, which are that you’ve been living apart for two years and you’ve made arrangements for your children. The affidavit has to be signed and sworn (or affirmed) in front of a lawyer, justice of the peace or court registrar.
  • Information sheet (Form G7)
  • Notice to respondent (Form FP16).

You can download the first three of those forms as a single pack (Pack 1) from: www.justice.govt.nz/family/separation-divorce/apply-for-a-divorce

You also have to attach the following documents to your affidavit:

  • the original marriage or civil union certificate, or a certified copy of the certificate, marked as “Exhibit A”
  • any separation agreement (or separation order, but these are very rare), marked as “Exhibit B”.

Giving the other person a copy of the application (“Serving” them)

Family Court Rules 2002, rule 127

Once you’ve taken the documents to the Family Court, if you are the person applying alone for dissolution (“the applicant”), you must arrange for copies of the application and other documents listed above to be given to (“served upon”) your spouse or civil union partner (“the respondent”). The documents cannot be posted to the respondent. This is the case even if the other party is living overseas.

A copy of the application must be personally served on the other party by someone other than the applicant. It is preferable that the person serving the application (“the server”) knows the other party, but if this is not possible, someone over the age of 18 can be the server. If the applicant wants to do so, they can pay for a private investigator, process server or bailiff to serve the documents.

Family Court Rules 2002, rule 104

Note: The copy of the application for dissolution cannot be served on a Sunday, Anzac Day (25 April), Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

Family Court Rules 2002, rules 127, 357, 358

To show that the application has been served, the server must complete an Affidavit of Service (Form G8) stating what documents were served and on what date.

If the server knows the other person, the affidavit must state how the server knows them.

If the server doesn’t know the other person, the server must prove that the documents were served on the correct person by attaching to the affidavit either:

  • written acknowledgement proved to be in the handwriting of the applicant’s spouse or civil union partner, or
  • a satisfactory photograph of the applicant’s spouse or civil union partner.

Once the copy of the application has been served, the sworn Affidavit of Service should be returned to the court.

What happens if I don’t know where the other person is?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 157

If you do not know where your spouse or civil union partner is, you will need to make an Application for Substituted Service or an Application to Dispense with Service.

The court will then consider whether there are other ways that service can be given effect. For example, the court might consider it sufficient if the application for dissolution is served on a family member of your spouse or civil union partner, or if notice of the application is given by advertising in newspapers where it is thought the other party might see it.

This is a more complex process, and you as the applicant will probably need the assistance of a family lawyer.

What if the other person doesn’t want a dissolution?

Family Court Rules 2002, rules 345, 346, 348

If one partner disagrees with the dissolution and wishes to appear in front of a judge or defend the proceedings, that party must either file a request for an appearance (Form FP 19), or file a defence (Form G12), within 21 days of being served with a copy of the application for dissolution.

It is difficult for one partner to defend an application for a dissolution order unless they can show that they and their partner have not been separated for at least two years. It won’t be enough if that one partner merely doesn’t want the relationship to end.

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