Divorce records - Auckland
A divorce is the official termination of a marriage. Once a decree absolute (the final decree in divorce proceedings) has been granted it becomes lawful for the respective parties to marry again as if the prior marriage had been dissolved by death.
Divorce files contain all the legal documentation required for the granting of a divorce. Note that not everyone who filed a petition for divorce always completed the divorce proceedings. If the parties reconciled after the petition was filed, then the divorce proceedings stopped. If later they wished to terminate the marriage then a new file was started under a new number. Some parties commenced divorce proceedings more than once over a number of years. In some of these cases the husband may have been the petitioner in the first proceedings, and in the second file the wife is the petitioner and the husband the respondent. Petitioning for divorce does not always end in the termination of a marriage.
Also, parties may start proceedings in one court (e.g. Auckland), not finalise them, then start proceedings again in another court (e.g. Gisborne) if one party has moved to another area. Researchers should not assume that because the family lived in one area that a divorce could not therefore be filed in a different district.
The origins of divorce laws in New Zealand
From 1867 until 1980, the Supreme / High Court had exclusive jurisdiction in the matters of divorce proceedings. In 1980 the Family Proceedings Act and Family Court Act meant that divorce proceedings became the jurisdiction of the District/Family Court, becoming family proceedings. All divorce proceedings commenced in the Supreme Court prior to the establishment of the Family Court in 1980 continued to be handled by the Supreme Court.
The 1867 Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act permitted husbands to divorce their wives for provable adultery on the part of the wife. Wives however had to prove both adultery and some other legally defined type of cruelty or desertion.
In 1889 the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act was amended so that a husband or a wife could petition for divorce simply on the grounds of adultery. The grounds for divorce were also extended to include other causes such as wilfully deserting the petitioner without cause for 5 years; being a habitual drunkard for 4 years or more (with a failure to provide support or neglect of domestic duties); cruelty, attempted murder of the petitioning spouse or any of their children; the respondent was a lunatic or of unsound mind and had been confined in an institution for at least 10 years or the husband was guilty of incestuous adultery, rape, sodomy, or bestiality. Also where one party had married twice or when there were reasonable grounds for supposing the other party to the marriage was dead.
Over the years the grounds for divorce have been further extended and waiting times reduced.
The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act has had various name changes over the years such as Matrimonial proceedings in the 1960s, Domestic proceedings in the 1970s and Family proceedings in the 1980s.
Some explanations of terminology used in divorce proceedings
Petition for dissolution of marriage
This is a request to the court for a decree of divorce.
Petition for restitution of conjugal rights
When one spouse has withdrawn from co-habitation the other may present a petition for restitution of conjugal rights and the court may make a decree directing the spouse who withdrew to return to cohabitation. Failure to comply with the decree may be a ground for granting a decree of separation. Failure to comply with a decree of restitution of conjugal rights for 2 years or more could be a ground for divorce.
Presumption of death and dissolution of marriage
Any married person may present a petition to the court where there are reasonable grounds for supposing that the other party to the marriage is dead. Usually the person must have been absent for seven or more years and that nothing has happened within that time to give the petitioner reason to believe that the other party was still living. Every decree of presumption of death and dissolution of marriage is a decree nisi in the first instance.
Dissolution of a voidable marriage
A petition for dissolution of a voidable marriage could be made by either party to the marriage. A marriage was considered voidable if it had not been consummated, if either party had a mental disorder at the time of the marriage, if the respondent was suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form at the time of marriage, if the wife was pregnant by another man or another woman was pregnant by the husband at the time of the marriage.
The husband or wife who presents a formal written application to the court requesting judicial action in the matter of the dissolution of a marriage, and the grounds for that dissolution which requires the judgement and sanction of the court.
The husband or wife who is required to make an answer to the petitioner who is requesting the divorce.
A co-defendant. A person summoned to answer a petition, together with another respondent. Used for example to designate the person charged with adultery with the respondent in a suit for divorce where adultery is given as the cause of the petition. The co-respondent is joined as a defendant with the respondent.
A written declaration, or statement of facts, that has been made voluntarily and is confirmed by an oath or affirmation by the person making the statement. This statement can only be taken before a person having authority to administer such oaths or affirmation.
An application made to the court or a Judge in Chambers. Its object is to obtain an order directing some act to be done in favour of the applicant.
An application for an order or final decision to stop or review a situation or customary procedure.
A separation of a husband and wife by a decree of the court. It is less complete than an absolute divorce. It could be considered a “limited divorce” or a “divorce a mensa et thoro” (a separation from bed and board). This was only granted on three grounds: adultery, cruelty which was deemed to be life threatening or both.
Every decree for dissolution of marriage granted by the Supreme Court was in the first instance a Decree Nisi, that is a “provisional” divorce. After a certain period of time had elapsed (between 3 to 6 months), the petitioner was required to apply to the court in order for a Decree absolute to be granted.
This is the final decree in the proceedings for a divorce. Once the specified waiting time has elapsed since the Decree nisi was granted and provision has been made for the maintenance of the wife and children, the petitioner applied for a Decree absolute. Once granted by the court a copy of the Decree absolute was sealed and a duplicate issued to the petitioner. At this point the marriage was terminated and it was lawful for the respective parties to remarry.
What kind of information can be found in a divorce file?
Divorce files are particularly valuable for genealogical and social research - they give detailed information about the persons involved.
A divorce file generally contains most of the following information:
Full name of husband
Full name of wife
Wife's maiden name
Where both husband and wife currently reside
Date of marriage
Place of marriage eg: church, chapel, registry office, house etc
Area/location where marriage took place
Name of minister/registrar/celebrant
Copy of marriage certificate
Cause of application and dates of events/incidents/behaviour
Name of co-respondent
Co-respondent's current address
Place of birth of husband and wife
Name of petitioner/respondent/co-respondent's solicitors
Full names of the children of the marriage
Ages of the children at the time of the petition
Occassionally personal letters, postcards, or photographs submitted in evidence
From about 1889 onwards occasionally photographys (usually of the respondent)
Documents on the files may include:
The petition for divorce
Affidavits in support of the divorce
Answer of the respondent
Decree nisi, and
Decree absolute dissolving the marriage.
It is possible to verify if a couple were divorced by obtaining a copy of the marriage certificate. When a divorce is granted a stamp is usually placed on the original certificate recording the date and court location of the decree absolute.
Divorce records held by us
These registers are a summary record created in order to monitor the progress of divorce cases at the court and to record the receipt of case papers and the dates received.
The type of information found is in summary list form with dates and includes:
The petition for dissolution of marriage (and usually the grounds eg: desertion, three years separation, adultery, failure to maintain etc)
Names of the two parties
Names of solicitors
Hearing fees paid
Decrees granted and sealed, and
Divorce case file number.
These files contain most of the information on the divorce. See previous outline of type of information contained on a divorce file.
Divorce minute book
The minute books are the court room record of actions taken and, like the divorce registers, provide only a summary in list form eg:
Hearing in chambers/civil sitting
Day and date of hearing
Names of parties
Names of solicitors appearing for the various parties
Names of witnesses, and
Action taken eg: petition withdrawn, decree nisi granted, hearing of petition, case struck off, trial adjourned, motion for leave to amend petition, motion for an order to service petition out of the colony.
Other divorce related records are also held eg: counselling registers, maintenance records etc.
Divorce records held at our Auckland archive
No restriction on divorce registers.
100 year restriction for all divorce files and minute books from date of closure of the record. Written permission to access records should be sought from the Court Manager where the divorce was processed.
Auckland High Court
BBAE 4446 Divorce registers 1869-1926
BBAE 4447 Divorce registers 1927-1981
BBAE 4984 Divorce files 1869-1926
BBAE 4985 Divorce files 1927-1981
BBAE 5636 Divorce minute books 1869-1982
Hamilton High Court
BDCG 4150 Divorce registers 1910-1965
BCDG 4151 Divorce registers 1966-1981
BCDG 5153 Divorce files 1910-1965
BCDG 5154 Divorce files 1966-1981
Rotorua District Court
BAZY 4761 Divorce registers 1973-1981
BAZY 4990 Divorce files 1973-1981
Gisborne District Court
BAJI 5809 Divorce registers 1881-1969
BAJI 5808 Divorce registers 1970-1981
BAJI 5807 Divorce files 1881-1969
BAJI 5810 Divorce files 1970-1981
BADF 19959 Divorce registers 1937-1981
BADF 20085 Divorce files 1937-1938
BADF 20086 Divorce files 1939-1958
BADF 20087 Divorce files 1959-1981
Note: Divorce files held at our Auckland archive have been listed individually by name on Archway.
Family proceedings records
From c.1981-1982 divorce proceedings were heard in the District / Family Court and divorce files became domestic proceedings files. Domestic proceedings were renamed family proceedings after the Family Proceedings Act 1980 and the Family Court came into force.
Domestic/family proceedings registers
These registers list family / domestic proceedings heard before the court on matters including separation, maintenance, paternity, custody and guardianship, matrimonial property, non-molestation and occupation orders etc. From 1981 these registers also include dissolution of marriages. The registers generally include the names of parties, type of proceedings, dates of stages in proceedings and dates of orders.
Domestic/family proceedings files
The files contain the legal documentation from family / domestic proceedings cases relating to maintenance, custody, matrimonial property, conciliation and separation. The files contain copies of papers relating to the hearings, including copies of maintenance agreements, custody applications and agreements, paternity orders, separation agreements, statements of evidence, correspondence with legal representatives, and in the front of each file an action sheet showing the dates of steps in each case. Names and addresses of the parties are usually given. From 1981 these files include marriage dissolutions.
Family proceedings records held at our Auckland archive
All records restricted for 100 years from date of file closure. Written permission to access records should be sought from the Court Manager where the proceedings took place.
|BADF 19952||Whangarei domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1985|
|BADF 19951||Whangarei domestic proceedings files - first sequence||1969-1971|
|BADF 10451||Whangarei domestic/family proceedings files - second sequence||1970-1984|
|BADF 20099||Whangarei miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings||1971-1984|
|BADF 20107||Dargaville domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1984|
|BADE 4472||Kaikohe domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1981|
|BADE 4474||Kaikohe domestic proceedings files||1970-1981|
|BADE 4482||Kaikohe family proceedings files||1982-1984|
|BADF 20226||Kaikohe miscellaneous family proceedings files||1983-1984|
|BADW 10283||Auckland domestic/family proceedings registers||1970/1992|
|BADW 10138||Auckland domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1994|
|BBOZ 10301||North Shore domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1990|
|BACK 11327||Otahuhu domestic/family proceedings||1970-1989|
|BCDV 11327||Otahuhu family proceedings registers||1988-1992|
|BACK 11323||Otahuhu domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1991|
|BCDV 24407||Otahuhu miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1991|
|BCDV 19700||Otahuhu miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings files||1971-1984|
|BACJ 24365||Papakura domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1996|
|BACJ 24374||Papakura family proceedings register index||1996-1996|
|BACJ 24353||Papakura domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1991|
|BACJ 24367||Papakura miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1998|
|BACM 24243||Pukekohe domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1991|
|BACM 24242||Pukekohe domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1991|
|BACM 24253||Pukekohe miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings register||1981-1996|
|BACM 24250||Pukekohe miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings files||1960-1991|
|BACI 11597||Waitakere domestic/family proceedings registers||1977-1984|
|BACI 11381||Waitakere domestic/family proceedings files||1977-1986|
|BCDG 14617||Hamilton domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1982|
|BCDG 14618||Hamilton domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1982|
|BACZ 24932||Te Awamutu domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1983|
|BACZ 24932||Te Awamutu domestic/family proceedings files||1969-1982|
|BACZ 24932||Te Awamutu miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1982|
|ABIB 26435||Te Kuiti domestic/family proceedings files||1970-1987|
|BAZY 14594||Rotorua domestic/family proceedings registers||1970-1987|
|BAZY 10956||Rotorua miscellaneous family/proceedings files||1970-1987|
|BAZY 10988||Rotorua miscellaneous family proceedings register||1970-1981|
|BAZY 18182||Rotorua miscellaneous family proceedings files||1970-1983|
|BAZY 15090||Matamata domestic proceedings registers||1970-1979|
|BAZY 15059||Matamata domestic proceedings files||1970-1979|
|BAZY 18778||Putaruru family proceedings registers||1981-1989|
|BAZY 17780||Putaruru family proceedings files||1981-1983|
|BAZY 15038||Putaruru domestic proceedings files||1970-1981|
|BBQU 15064||Tokoroa family proceedings registers||1970-1982|
|BBQU 15352||Tokoroa family proceedings files||1970-1983|
|BBZW 15036||Taupo family proceedings and miscellaneous family proceedings register||1970-1983|
|BBZW 14963||Taupo family files||1970-1983|
|BBZW 15031||Taupo miscellaneous domestic proceedings files||1970-1983|
|BAFV 26117||Paeroa domestic proceedings files||1970-71|
|BAFV 26118||Waihi domestic proceedings files||1970-1981|
|BARH 10938||Tauranga domestic proceedings registers||1970-1985|
|BARH 5865||Tauranga family proceedings files||1970-1980|
|BARH 10941||Tauranga family proceedings counselling registers||1982-1983|
|BARH 10952||Tauranga miscellaneous domestic proceedings applications registers||1970-1984|
|BARH 10940||Tauranga family proceedings court orders/maintenance orders guard book||1967-1968|
|BAHF 24957||Opotiki domestic/family proceedings files||1956-1984|
|BAHF 24960||Opotiki miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings registers||1949-2002|
|BANO 17010||Gisborne domestic proceedings registers||1968-1982|
|BANO 17011||Gisborne family proceedings registers||1981-1988|
|BANO 18247||Gisborne domestic proceedings index||1970-1981|
|BANO 15503||Gisborne domestic proceedings files||1976-1981|
|BANO 17008||Gisborne family proceedings files||1981-1988|
|BANO 22910||Gisborne miscellaneous domestic/family proceedings registers||1975-1992|
|BANO 17009||Gisborne miscellaneous domestic proceedings files||1970-1989|
Last updated on 31 October 2019