Civil unions were made legal in New Zealand from 26 April 2005. This means that couples now have the choice of whether to get married or to have a civil union. Many of you have probably been following the progression of the Civil Unions Bill through Parliament on the news and are now wondering how to go about having a civil union.
Any two people (and that means couples of the same sex or couples of different sexes) who meet the criteria set out by the Act can enter into a civil union. A civil union is a legal relationship that is recognised in law in New Zealand. Civil Unions formalised in New Zealand may also be recognised in other countries but that will depend on that country’s laws so if you are thinking of travelling it may pay to check that out first.
If you are already married and decide you would prefer to have a civil union you can choose to change your relationship to a civil union instead of a marriage without having to formally dissolve your marriage (which normally involves living apart for 2 years) and vice versa.
The Civil Union Act 2004 sets out the rules governing a civil unions and that must be followed to be officially registered in New Zealand.
There are two types of civil union ceremony:
- A ceremony solemnised by a Registrar of Civil Unions in a Registry Office; and
- A ceremony solemnised by an authorised Civil Union Celebrant at a place other than a Registry Office.
You need to find a celebrant that that is approved to conduct civil unions. There are a number listed in the Product & Services Directory of this site.
Civil Union Licence
As with a marriage you need to apply for a civil union licence at the Department of Internal Affairs. You must complete the appropriate type of Notice of Intended Civil Union including a statutory declaration that both parties are free to be joined in civil union and that all the details supplied on the form are correct – available here.
Like an application to be married, one of the couple must appear in person before a Registrar of Civil Unions to sign the statutory declaration. You must also pay a fee (currenlty $170.00 or $120 (depending on the type of ceremony you have chosen)).
The Registrar will issue your Civil Union Licence, together with two copies of a document known as a 'Copy of Particulars of Civil Union' (normally three calendar days after receiving the civil union notice and applicable fee). You will need to deliver these three documents to your Civil Union Celebrant before the ceremony.
Your civil union licence is valid for three months from the date on which it is issued. You may enter into your civil union during that period before the approved celebrant and at the place specified on the civil union licence. However, if you change your approved celebrant or your venue, you must advise the Registry office from where your licence was obtained before the civil union has taken place.
For more information of entering into a civil union, contact the Department of Internal Affairs or visit their website here.