• Kathryn Guthrie, Director

Getting your divorce papers served in New Zealand

Before you can apply for a divorce in New Zealand you need to ensure that the two following conditions have been met…

  • both parties must have been living apart for two years or more, and;

  • that at least one of the parties is residing permanently (domiciled) in New Zealand

In addition to this provision for any children (i.e. that they have be properly provided for) may also need to be considered.


We recently served some divorce papers on a person in Napier. They filed a notice of defence stating that the divorce should not be granted because there were still disagreements between both parties regarding outstanding monies owing on property. The court heard the matter and then ruled in favour of the dissolution order being made. Couples often think they need to have their finances in order before a dissolution can be granted – but this was not the case in this instance. It is important to note that legal advice should be sought if you are unsure, as circumstances will vary from person to person.


The process for getting a divorce (known as Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union Order) in New Zealand is designed to be reasonably straight forward, and one that can be managed by the individual, and does not necessarily need the involvement of a lawyer.


Apply for a divorce when you both agree

If the couple is in agreement, and as long as you have lived apart for the 2 year period, you can complete a joint application. This can be obtained online and once completed and submitted the process is relatively quick. When you both agree to get a divorce.

Apply for a divorce on your own

If only one of the parties wants a divorce, then the process is a little more involved. In this situation the person wanting to apply for the divorce (applicant), needs to complete a one party application for dissolution of marriage. Once filed and processed by the Family Court in Wellington, they send the applicant a "service pack". This includes documents to be served on the ex-partner notifying them that an application has been lodged, and information on what to do, should they oppose the divorce proceeding.


Dissolution of marriage documents cannot be served by the applicant, and it can be awkward to ask a family member or friend. This is where the use of an experienced process server comes in. Impartial to the proceeding, they will serve the documents, and complete the documentation confirming that service took place - to the satisfaction of the court. Apply for a divorce on your own.

Our part in the process is to…

  1. Serve the documents – correctly.

  2. Ask that the respondent sign an acknowledgment of service.

  3. The process server completes and swears/ affirms an Affidavit of Service.

  4. The process server returns the sworn Affidavit of Service to the applicant.

  5. The applicant needs to swear the Affidavit of Identification (which includes the process servers sworn Affidavit of Service) and return to the Family Court (we can provide on guidance on this).

Issues arise when the respondent...

  • Does not want to be served, i.e. they refuse the accept the documents, refuse to confirm their identity, or decide to slam the door in our face (yes we have experienced this!).

  • Is away for an extended period, they may be overseas living and working.

  • Cannot be found. The applicant does not know where their ex is currently residing. The Family Court has a process for this, or we can assist.

Review Date - the deadline for service to be completed by


When the Wellington Family Court issues the documents for service, there will be a date specified when the file will be reviewed by the Registrar. If for some reason this timeline cannot be met (i.e. respondent is being difficult, is overseas, cannot be found) then we can request an extension, or perhaps another option may need to be considered.

Serving dissolution of marriage documents in New Zealand and overseas


The Docuserve team has extensive experience handling with sensitivity the service of dissolution of marriage proceedings. We understand the documentation and know what the courts require.


We also have experience serving divorce papers from overseas courts, including Australia and the USA, and can assist serving your dissolution documents in a number of overseas countries.


Reference: Family Court New Zealand, apply for a divorce pages.




Disclaimer: Docuserve is not a law firm, and none of our team are lawyers. We do not offer legal advice. If you require any assistance with legal matters you must seek the services of a qualified lawyer. Our website and its contents are based on our anecdotal experiences only.  

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