• Kathryn Guthrie, Director

Getting your divorce papers served in New Zealand


In New Zealand the main grounds for divorce is that 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. As long as suitable arrangements are made for any children (i.e. that they have be properly provided for), then there are no other grounds on which a divorce should be declined.


We recently served some divorce papers on a Respondent. 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 owning 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 as circumstances will vary from person to person.


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


Apply for a divorce when you both agree

If the couple are in agreement, then 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 yo 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 apply by completing an application and filing it with the Family Court.


After the Family Court processes your application they will send you a set of documents to give to “serve on” on your ex-partner (Respondent), and this is where the use of an experienced process server comes in. Dissolution of Marriage documents cannot be served by the Applicant. And there is every chance that even friends and family will have difficulty serving the documents, especially if your ex-partner does not want the divorce to proceed. Apply for a divorce on your own.

And this is where we come in. Our part in the process is to…


  1. Serve the documents – correctly.

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

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

  4. 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.


When the 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 can’t 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.

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.


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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