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Civil Unions

"Love doesn't discriminate – neither does the law"

quote for the Civil Union website

In a liberating and innovative move, in 2005 the New Zealand Labour government brought the Civil Union Act of 2004 into being. For those of us who have become civil union celebrants, this is a rewarding and timely initiative.

Civil Union celebrants are administered under different legislation from marriage celebrants and a different process is undertaken for celebrants to be registered. A registered Marriage Celebrant is not approved to take Civil Unions unless they have been approved under the Civil Union Act.

What is a civil union?

A Civil Union is a formal and legal commitment between two persons. It may be entered into by couples of the same sex or couples of the opposite sex. It may be held before either a Registrar of Civil Unions in a Registry office or by a registered Civil Union celebrant.

The key difference between a Civil Union and a marriage apart from the legislative Acts under which each falls, is the declaration by the celebrant once the ceremony has been completed.

If you are under the age of 17 then consent must be given before you enter into such a commitment.

Couples who are married to each other and want to continue in that relationship may change the form of the relationship to a civil union without having to first formally dissolve the first relationship.

Two people who are in a civil union with each other and who are otherwise eligible to marry, may change the form of that relationship to a marriage without having to formally dissolve that first relationship.

Civil unions may be recognised in other countries, depending on the laws of that country.

How to Apply for a Civil Union Licence

When a couple intend to enter into a civil union, they are required to complete the appropriate type of 'Notice of Intended Civil Union' form, which includes 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. If either party is 16 or 17 years of age, consent to enter into a civil union is required.

One of the parties must appear in person before a Registrar of Civil Unions to sign the statutory declaration and pay the required fee.

The Registrar of Civil Unions will issue your Civil Union Licence (normally no sooner than three days after receiving the civil union notice), together with two copies of a document known as a 'Copy of Particulars of Civil Union'.

You will need to deliver these three documents to your Civil Union Celebrant before the ceremony.

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.

Paying for Your Civil Union Licence

Civil union conducted at the Registry Office

If you wish for your civil union to be conducted by a Registrar of Civil Unions at the Registry Office, you must pay a fee of NZ$170.00 when you send in or hand over the completed Notice of Intended Civil Union form. This includes the fee for the civil union licence and the ceremony.

Civil union conducted by a Civil Union Celebrant outside of a Registry Office

If you wish for your civil union to be conducted by a Civil Union Celebrant, you must pay a fee of NZ$120.00 when you send in or hand over the completed Notice of Intended Civil Union form. This includes the fee for the civil union licence but does not include any additional fee the Civil Union Celebrant may charge. The name of the Civil Union Celebrant must be given on the form in order for your licence to be issued. The celebrant must be approved to conduct civil unions in New Zealand.

For further information contact the Civil Union website www.civilunions.org.nz.

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