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This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.
How to get married within New Zealand
To get married you will first need to lodge a notice of the intended marriage with your nearest Marriage Registry, which will then issue you with a marriage licence (see below).
See also How to enter into a civil union. For information on separation and dissolution of marriages and civil unions, see How to enter into a formal separation agreement, How to obtain a separation order, and How to obtain a dissolution of marriage or civil union.
Am I legally able to marry?
First, you must make certain that you and your intended spouse may legally marry.
A couple cannot legally marry if either is still married, or if one party did not validly consent to the marriage, or if the couple are too closely related. A marriage that breaches these prohibitions will be void.
At what age can a person get married?
Anyone who is 18 or older can legally marry, and does not need the consent of a parent or any other person.
Children under 16 cannot legally marry. If you are 16 or 17, you can get married if you first get the consent of your parents or guardian. There's a special form for this ("Consent to Marriage of a Minor") that you will need to get them to sign (you can download a copy of the consent form from the Internal Affairs website at www.dia.govt.nz, under Forms). If you don't have a parent or guardian, of if they refuse to consent, you can ask a Family Court judge to consent instead.
If a marriage licence is issued and the wedding takes place even though the age requirements aren't met, the marriage will still be legally valid.
Lodging a notice with the Registrar of Marriages
Once you have decided to get married you must lodge a "Notice of Intended Marriage" with the Registrar of Marriages for your area. You can download a copy of the consent form from the Internal Affairs website under forms.
Either you or your intended spouse will then need to visit the local Marriage Registry to make a statutory declaration that the information you have given in the application is true, that the marriage is not prohibited by the two of you being too closely related (for example, blood relatives cannot marry), and that any necessary consents have been obtained. You will also need to pay the required fee.
If either or both of you have been married before, the Registrar will need a copy of an order dissolving the marriage.
Getting the marriage licence
After you have given this notice and at least three days have passed, the Registrar will issue authorise a licence allowing the wedding to go ahead.
The wedding must take place within three months of the licence being issued.
You must be married by a registered marriage celebrant, which includes church ministers, Registrars of Marriage, and people approved as marriage celebrants under the MARRIAGE ACT 1955.
Many couples enter into a pre-nuptial agreement to protect their property should they separate. While this may not be pleasant to consider, it may be sensible to provide for this possibility before you marry (see How to enter into a property agreement).
Other considerations for an engaged couple to bear in mind are whether one or both of them will change their names.
Can a civil union couple get married?
If you are in a civil union, you and your partner can change your relationship to a marriage under the CIVIL UNION ACT 2004 without first having to dissolve your civil union (dissolution requires that you have lived apart for at least two years). However, you and your partner must be eligible to marry â€“ same-sex partners, for example, are not eligible to marry.
You will need to obtain a marriage licence using the same process as explained above. You will then be able to go through the marriage ceremony.
For more on civil unions, see How to enter into a civil union.
- Sham marriages have occurred in the past, where the parties obtain a benefit or allowance by getting married and then attempt to have the marriage annulled. The courts are aware of such schemes and are not willing to annul these marriages.
- It may be necessary to change your will before getting married. You should see a lawyer about this. See How to make a will.
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