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

Divorce: Getting a “dissolution” order

Requirements for getting a dissolution

What are the grounds for dissolving a marriage or civil union?

Family Proceedings Act 1980, s 39

The only ground for getting a dissolution is “irreconcilable breakdown” of the marriage or civil union. In order to establish 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 (or a separation order, but these are almost never made nowadays)
  • 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.

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