Home | Browse Topics | Family law | Relationships and break-ups | Requirements for getting a dissolution

Family law

Divorce: Getting a “Dissolution” Order

Requirements for getting a dissolution

When can I dissolve a marriage or civil union?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 39

The only ground (reason) for getting a dissolution is “irreconcilable breakdown” of the marriage or civil union. In order to show this, the court just has to be satisfied that the two of you are living apart now and have been living apart for at least two years. In New Zealand, you don’t have to show anything else. For example, if you want a dissolution you don’t have to show that the other person is at fault in some way – that sort of thing is irrelevant in New Zealand law. You can’t shorten the two-year separation requirement, even if both of you agree you want to get divorced straight away.

If you have children under 16, the judge also has to be satisfied that you’ve made arrangements for their care, including day-to-day care and financial support.

Proof that the parties have been living apart for two years can be provided by:

  • a separation agreement, which can be either spoken or written (see “Separating” above),
  • an affidavit (a sworn statement) from either or both of you saying that you’ve lived apart for two years, or
  • independent evidence, like an affidavit from someone who knows you both.

What if we got back together for a while during the last two years?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 40

You can still satisfy the two-year separation requirement even if you lived together for a while during those two years to try to work things out (a “reconciliation”), so long as this wasn’t for more than three months. You can even get back together more than once, as long as the total time together is not more than three months.

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 41

The law doesn’t assume that you’ve started living together again just because you have sex again after separating.

Did this answer your question?

Relationships and break-ups

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Births, Death & Marriages (Department of Internal Affairs)


This website has information about marriages and civil unions. On this site you can also apply online for a marriage licence or download the application forms.

Family Court


This Family Court webpage provides a range of information relevant to adult relationships, including information on separation, dissolution, relationship property and the court processes that apply in those areas. You can access pamphlets online, as well as Family Court forms such as Dissolution of Marriage Application packs.

Family Court fee waiver forms

Family Court fee waiver (or refund) forms are available here:


New Zealand Law Society



  • Living together
  • Dividing up relationship property
  • What happens to your children when you part?
  • What happens when your relationship breaks up?

You can access pamphlets online or order hard copies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Phone: (04) 472 7837

Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

Work and Income


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

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top