New Zealand Law
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You can agree on the date, or it can be as simple as you noting this in a diary or an email to someone. It's seldom an issue under New Zealand law. It can be the date the relationship came to an end, and even just when one of you started living in a separate room in the same house. That is not illegal and I have seen this a few times. It's not really important in the bigger picture. Once you leave you are legally separated, but the status is not really important under New Zealand family law. You can get the marriage dissolved here after two years, and this is usually done on the papers without a court hearing. But you could apply in South Africa, but it makes no real difference.
You can change your name at any time. It may surprise you to learn that taking your husbands name is ***** ***** and not law in New Zealand and you can revert to your maiden name whenever you want.
Engagement is not a process recognised by law. It is just a promise as between a couple that they will get married, and isnt affected by being separated or divorced. So you could separate and the same day get engaged to someone new-or wait until you are ready. You are separated as soon both of you decide to end the marriage, and sometimes this does mean you are still in the same house, as it takes time to find a new home. That does happen and is not illegal. the time of separation is when you make the decision and end the relationship. Its not very formal under New Zealand law because divorce is no fault.
You can get the marriage dissolved in New Zealand and this doesnt need a court appearance as it is done on the papers after the two years are up. You just need to make the application. You can change your name any time you want. Taking your husbands name is ***** ***** and not required by law, so you can use whatever name you want.