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It can be difficult to work out exactly what you need to do in a legal proceeding, particularly at the beginning where you are looking to commence a lawsuit or begin an appeal. Where to file documents in the High Court is one of the most common questions we receive. Luckily, there are some general principles to follow that make the process more straightforward. This article sets out: 

  • the basics of filing documents in the High Court; 
  • where you should file them if you are making a claim or asking for an appeal; and 
  • what you need to know about electronic filing.

The Basics of Filing Documents

You need to file documents in New Zealand to start a legal proceeding. Precisely what is required depends on the kind of claim you are trying to make. The Ministry of Justice’s website sets out what is required for each kind of claim. These include:

Another important basic with filing documents is to remember you need multiple copies of each document. At the very least, you should have one copy for: 

  • the court; 
  • the other party (or multiple if there are multiple parties); and 
  • yourself.

Where to File Documents in a New Zealand Proceeding

When you are filing a document to begin a new proceeding, you typically need to file your application in the High Court registry (court) closest to the defendant’s home or place of business. The defendant is the person you are taking the proceeding against. You should file in the registry closest to the primary defendant in circumstances where there is more than one defendant. A registry is basically like the court’s administrative office. 

However, it is a bit more confusing if you are filing an appeal to try and overturn a decision in the District or Family court. If so, you should file it:

  • in the closest High Court registry to where the hearing of the previous decision you are appealing took place; or
  • if there was no hearing, in the closest High Court registry to where the decision you are appealing was given; or
  • in any High Court registry that you and the other parties agree to (if all parties agree that you should file an appeal should be in a different registry to the one above, you should file a memorandum recording your agreement with the High Court).

If you are defending a claim (rather than filing one), you should file all your documents in the High Court registry where the other side started the proceeding. However, you may believe that the party filed the proceeding in the wrong registry or that another court’s registry would be more appropriate. In that case, you can apply to have the proceedings transferred to another registry.

How Electronic Filing Works in New Zealand

In New Zealand, the courts have an online system called ‘File and Pay’ to provide an electronic alternative to filing documents and paying fees in person. The High Court accepts electronic document filing and payment (as does the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and some kinds of cases in the District Court).

You can use this service to: 

  • file documents and make payment;
  • only file documents (e.g. if you are also applying for a fee waiver); or 
  • only make payment (e.g. if you are required to send a paper filing to the court). 

You should still check with the court or a lawyer exactly what you are required to file and whether you can file all of your documents electronically.

Key Takeaways

Generally, you should file documents in the High Court to start a proceeding in the registry (court office) closest to the defendant’s home or business. However, if you agree with the other party, you can file the documents at a separate court. Remember to check on the Ministry of Justice’s website exactly what documents are required for your specific kind of claim and to keep copies for yourself whenever you file anything. If you want to know more about filing documents in New Zealand, contact LegalVision’s disputes and litigation lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to keep copies of your documents that you file?

Yes, you should keep multiple copies of filed documents: typically one for the court, one for the other party (or multiple if there are multiple parties), and one for yourself.

Where should you file your documents?

Usually, the nearest High Court registry closest to where the defendant lives or where the defendant’s business is located. If you are filing an appeal, you should file the documents at the High Court registry nearest to where the original case was heard (the location of the District Court, for instance). 

How does electronic filing work in New Zealand?

The File and Pay website (link here) allows you to do electronic filing for most documents and payments required in New Zealand courts. Sometimes you will still need to file a document physically too, so it is worth checking the details of the documentation required in your case.

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