The first New Zealand law allowing people to obtain a divorce was passed in 1867 and was similar to the 1857 English act. The grounds for divorce was adultery on the part of the husband or wife but only if their were additional aggravating circumstances.
A post-1880 marriage that ended in divorce will have a notation recorded on the document held at the Central Registry which will show, name of the court, date if decree. If the divorce occurred outside New Zealand then a notation would not be recorded.
In post 1880 marriages a widower will often have included the date when his first wife died. A widow will usually carry the surname of the first husband. A divorced man will have included the date when his divorce became absolute. A divorced woman will have the same.
In the early years of the 20th century divorced women often reverted back to their maiden name. When they married for the second time although the names of their parents were recorded, nothing is shown detailing their former married name.
From 1898 the wife no longer needed to prove that there were additional circumstances beyond her husband's adultery. As well, grounds were extended to include failure to comply with a decree for the restitution of conjugal rights and desertion for five years. In 1919 this was reduced three years.
From 1928 the grounds were further extended to include habitual drunkenness for four years coupled in the case of a husband with habitual cruelty or habitual failure to support. In the case of a wife coupled with the neglect of domestic duties, seven years for attempted murder of a child, detention in a mental hospital for seven years or more.
The regional offices of Archives New Zealand located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin hold the divorce registers in many instances.
Restrictions apply. Access is not available to any registers less than 100 years old
An application needs to be made to the High Court in area the divorce took place for permission to gain access to files and also for relevant file numbers. The content may contain correspondence, which gives a great deal of information about the family involved.
Records are held by Archives New Zealand at all their Regional Offices