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Marriages, civil unions and de facto relationships

Civil unions

Who can enter into a civil union?

Civil Union Act 2004, ss 7–9

A civil union is a formalised legal relationship similar to marriage. A couple can enter into a civil union whether they’re same-sex or different sexes. Civil unions were introduced in 2005.

You can enter a civil union if:

  • neither of you is currently married or in a civil union with someone else
  • you’re both 16 or older (but if either of you is 16 or 17, that person will need permission from a Family Court judge), and
  • you’re not closely related by blood, marriage, civil union, or adoption (a list of the kinds of relationships that are forbidden is in Schedule 2 of the Civil Union Act 2004).

How do I enter into a civil union?

Civil Union Act 2004, ss 7–9

You’ll need to get a civil union licence and then have a formal ceremony before either a Registrar of Civil Unions or an approved civil union celebrant.

First, you’ll need to lodge a “Notice of Intended Civil Union” with the registrar. (You can download a copy of this – it’s easiest to just search online using the name of the form). The notice includes a statutory declaration, which one of you will have to sign in front of a Registrar of Civil Unions at a Births, Deaths and Marriages office. You’ll also have to pay a fee.

The registrar will give you a civil union licence, usually three days after you’ve provided them with your civil union notice.

The civil union ceremony

You have to have the ceremony within three months after you get the civil union licence. The ceremony can be carried out by a Registrar of Civil Unions at a Registry Office during ordinary business hours, or by an approved civil union celebrant at some other place, at any time or day of the week.

How does a civil union formally end?

A civil union formally comes to an end when the Family Court issues a dissolution (divorce) order, the same as with a marriage (see “Divorce: Getting a “dissolution” order” in this chapter).

Changing a civil union into a marriage

You and your civil union partner can change the form of your relationship to a marriage without first having to dissolve your civil union. You start the process by completing a “Notice of Intended Marriage change of relationship from civil union” (available from www.govt.nz ).

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