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Marriages, Civil Unions, and Divorces: Year ended December 2015
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  04 May 2016
Definitions

About marriages, civil unions, and divorces

This information release measures the number of marriages, civil unions, and divorces registered in New Zealand each year. Along with birth and death statistics, marriage, civil union, and divorce statistics are often referred to as 'vital statistics'. They provide basic information about the structure of the population and how it changes over time.

More definitions

Civil union: the act, ceremony, or process by which the legal relationship of two people is constituted. In New Zealand, a civil union may be solemnised either by a civil union celebrant or before a registrar of civil unions. A licence must be obtained from a registrar before a civil union can be solemnised, and notice must be given by one of the parties to a registrar.

The Civil Union Act 2004 came into force on 26 April 2005. This Act introduced a new form of legal relationship. A civil union may be entered into by couples of the same sex or by couples of different sexes. The first civil union ceremonies were celebrated on 29 April 2005.

Civil union statistics are based on the number of civil unions registered in New Zealand. A civil union is classed as a resident civil union if partner two is resident in New Zealand and as an overseas civil union if partner two is an overseas resident.

A couple who are currently married can transfer their relationship to a civil union. A couple in a civil union can transfer their relationship to a marriage

Divorce: the dissolution of a marriage or civil union. An application for marriage or civil union dissolution can be made by either partner on grounds that the marriage or civil union has broken down irreconcilably, provided a two-year separation requirement is satisfied. One or both partners must usually live in New Zealand. The Family Court grants Dissolution Orders. Family Courts are located throughout New Zealand but since 2014 almost all applications for divorce have been processed by the Wellington court.

From 2011, divorce statistics are based on the year the order of dissolution was granted. Data before 2011 is based on the date information about the order was received by Statistics New Zealand. For example, 2010 data may include an order granted before 2010. Hence, data from 2011 onwards may not be directly comparable with data before 2011.

Divorce data are published annually and unless otherwise stated refer to orders for dissolution of marriage and civil unions granted in New Zealand (that is, civil unions are included).

Divorce rate: the number of  orders for dissolution of marriage and civil union granted in New Zealand per 1,000 estimated existing marriages and civil unions.

First marriages: marriages or civil unions where neither partner has been previously married or in a civil union.

General marriage rate: the number of marriages and civil unions per 1,000 mean estimated population aged 16 years and over who are not married or in a civil union (transfers to and from marriage or civil unions are excluded).

Marriage: Before 19 August 2013, a marriage involved the act, ceremony, or process by which the legal relationship of husband and wife was constituted.

From 19 August 2013, a marriage involves the act, ceremony, or process by which the legal relationship of two people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity is constituted.

In New Zealand, marriage may be solemnised either by a celebrant or before a registrar of marriages. A licence must be obtained from a registrar before a marriage by a celebrant can be solemnised, and notice must be given by one of the parties to a registrar.

All couples (opposite-sex and same-sex) can now transfer their civil union to marriage without first dissolving the civil union.

Unless otherwise stated, marriage statistics from 1991 are based on the number of marriages registered in New Zealand where partner two is resident in New Zealand. Before 1991, marriages are based on the number of marriages registered in New Zealand of bridegrooms resident in New Zealand and bridegrooms visiting from overseas.

Median age: half are younger and half older than this age.

Partner two: The person whose details are entered in the right hand column of the marriage or civil union license application form. For opposite-sex marriages this is usually the bridegroom. 

Remarriage: marriages or civil unions where one or both partners have been previously married or in a civil union with a different partner. Remarriages do not include transfers to and from marriage or civil union. Transfers are included in total marriages and civil unions.

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