You can apply for dissolution (divorce) if you are married, in a civil union, and New Zealand is usually home for at least one of you. Asking the Family Court for a divorce (Dissolution Order) can be done by just one party or by both of you together.

To apply for an Order, at least one of you must be domiciled in New Zealand. In general, ‘domiciled’ means that New Zealand is your permanent home, even if you are or have been living overseas for a time. You can be considered to be domiciled in New Zealand when:

  • You were born in New Zealand and have not made a home in another country with the intention of living in that country for an indefinite time. You could still be considered to be domiciled in New Zealand if you are living or working in another country but are not planning to stay there indefinitely.
  • You were born overseas but have made a home in New Zealand with the intention of living here for an indefinite time.

The fact that you were married or entered into a civil union in New Zealand is not enough on its own to allow you to apply for a divorce in New Zealand. At least one party needs to be domiciled in New Zealand when the application is made.  

If you were married or entered into a civil union overseas, you can apply for a Dissolution Order in New Zealand, as long as one of you has been domiciled in New Zealand when the application is made.  

In divorce cases where one party is living overseas or cannot be found, we often act as your divorce lawyer in such a divorce case. Solutions to finalise the divorce include applying to the Family Court for substituted service (often to serve another family member) or to instruct a private investigator to locate the other party.  

When your divorce case is simple, we encourage clients to do the paperwork on their own to the Family Court. This saves legal fees and most clients are happy to do this with our support.  

But in situations where clients want ease of mind or there are complications, we can normally do the divorce for a fixed fee or an estimated fee. If the separation date is in dispute, this is another reason for instructing a divorce lawyer in the Family Court.


“The information posted on this website is prepared for a general audience, without investigation into the facts of any particular case. This information is no substitute for legal advice and does not create a lawyer-client relationship; you are advised to consult with a lawyer on any legal issue.”