Frequently Asked Questions

Civil Unions

What is a civil union?

A civil union is a legally recognised status that provides the criteria, requirements and processes for same sex or opposite sex couples to have their relationship officially recognised in New Zealand.

Who can have a civil union?

Any persons who are at least 16 years of age may have a civil union. If either party is 16 or 17 years of age the consent of a parent, guardian or Family Court judge must be obtained.

You may not enter a civil union with someone who has a close familial relationship to you e.g. uncle, cousin, brother, sister.
If you have previously been married or in a registered civil union you must supply evidence of the legal dissolution of that relationship.

I live in another country. Can I have a civil union in New Zealand?

Yes you can. You will need to complete specific forms relating to couples who normally live outside New Zealand. Further details of the requirements can be found on the Births, Deaths and Marriages link at the end of this section.

If I move from New Zealand is my civil union still legal?

Your civil union remains binding under New Zealand law regardless of where you live. However, you should be aware that the country you are moving to may not recognise your civil union.

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How do I arrange to have a civil union?

You will need to:

  • Contact a civil union celebrant or Registrar of Civil Unions to arrange a time and place for the ceremony.
  • Complete the Notice of Intended Civil Union, take this to an office of a Registrar of Civil Unions and sign a statutory declaration.
  • Pay the fee of NZ$120

Does a civil union have to follow a particular format?

The Civil Union Act 2004 requires that:

  • The civil union be performed at the place stated on the licence
  • The civil union be performed in the presence of a civil union celebrant or Registrar of Civil Unions
  • The civil union be performed in the presence of two witnesses
  • Each party must identify themselves and acknowledge that they are joining in a civil union of their free will
  • Each party, the two witnesses and the civil union celebrant or Registrar of Civil Unions must sign the registration forms

Other than these legal requirements there is no specific format or wording that must be used.

Are there any rules about where and when I can have a civil union?

You can have your civil union at any time or place that you arrange with your celebrant. You can nominate two places on the licence so it’s a good idea to have a wet weather alternative if you plan on an outdoor ceremony.

Where can I get more information about civil unions?

Information and forms can be found on the Births, Deaths and Marriages site within the Department of Internal Affairs website.
Click on the link below for further information:

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Commitment Ceremonies

How is a commitment ceremony different from a marriage or civil union?

A commitment ceremony recognises, in a public declaration, a loving relationship between a couple. It carries meaning and importance for the couple and those present on the day but does not have the legal standing and requirements of a marriage or civil union.

How do we arrange a commitment ceremony?

As a commitment does not have the same legal requirements as a marriage or civil union it can be conducted by any person you choose. If you wish to use a celebrant you will need to contact them to arrange a time to discus your needs.

Is there a particular format we have to follow?

No. In agreement with the celebrant, your commitment ceremony can be conducted where ever and when ever you would like and can be as individual as you want to make it.

Name Giving Ceremonies

Is a name giving the same as a christening?

A name giving provides an alternative to a christening for families who wish to welcome a newborn with a celebration that is not overtly linked to a particular religious faith or denomination. It is similar to a christening in that it is an opportunity to acknowledge a new child, support the immediate family and recognize particular roles that individuals will be taking in the child’s life.

Are there any legal requirements?

There are no legal requirements associated with a name giving ceremony however under New Zealand law the birth of a child must be registered on the Notification of Birth for Registration form which is available from your local office of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
A name giving ceremony does not remove the requirement to register the birth of your child.

What can we include in the ceremony?

A name giving can include any elements that have meaning or importance for you or your family. Ceremonies often include music, singing, gifts, poems, statements of support by friends and family and recognition of adults who have been nominated as potential guardians or who will have a special interest in the child’s life such as god-parents.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered here I invite you to contact me.

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