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 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, and
  • you’re not closely related by blood, marriage, civil union, or adoption (a list of the kinds of relationships that are not allowed is in Schedule 2 of the Civil Union Act 2004), and
  • you’re both 18 or older. If either of you is 16 or 17, that person will need permission from the Family Court (it will be the same process of asking the Family Court permission to get married at 16 or 17). See “16 and 17-year-olds need a judge’s permission to get married”.

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 submit a “Notice of Intended Civil Union” with the registrar. You can download a copy of this if you go to and search “Get a civil union licence”. 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. A list of locations to sign the form is included at the end of the form.

You’ll also have to pay a fee. You will be given information about how to post your payment to the Births, Deaths and Marriages office in Wellington on the form.

You will be sent a civil union licence and two copies of the “Copy of particulars of civil union”, a form with all the details of the people getting the civil union. Give all 3 of these documents to your celebrant before your ceremony.

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. You can search for a civil union celebrant at

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 by completing a “Notice of Intended Marriage Change of Relationship from Civil Union”. For more information go to and search “Change a civil union to a marriage”.

Next Section | De facto relationships

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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


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

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