Family violence in New Zealand has been a widespread social problem for a long time. Changes have now been made in the law to better protect victims. These changes came into effect on 1 July 2019.

The major changes are:

  • The definition of family violence now includes “coercive or controlling behavior”. This will mean more people in need of protection can seek it, as the threshold for protection has been lowered. The new laws look at patterns of what may seem minor incidents, cumulating into long-standing abuse.

  • The definition of psychological abuse now includes the withdrawal of care, aid, a device or medication from someone who requires that assistance. It also includes the definition of “carer and recipient of care” into the definition of “family relationship”. Ill-treatment of pets is also now included as family violence. This change attempts to stop abuse of the sick and elderly and also pets in a family environment.

  • The changes allow for greater sharing of information between Police, social service providers and family violence agencies which will hopefully in turn, result in faster responses and support to family violence victims and will speed up early intervention where violence has occurred.

  • Police Safety Orders have been extended from a five day period to a ten day maximum period, giving victims greater time to seek protection. The Police Safety Orders also stop any parenting arrangement or order which provides contact for the abuser for the time period of the Police Safety Order. This will mean children who have witnessed or have been the victim of family violence will not be forced to have contact with the perpetrator of the violence.

  • A Judge can also make a temporary protection order if an abuser has failed or refused to follow a Police Safety Order. 

  • The last major change gives the Court power to direct people who commit family violence to attend a wider range of anti-violence services. This will mean that violent parties can get assessed earlier and are placed in the right programs to help them reflect on and eliminate their violent behavior.

If you or someone you know is suffering from family violence, it is always best to seek help from Police and the social services that are available to assist, and to see a lawyer experienced in this area, who can help you apply for a protection order.

Shaun Cousins
Family Lawyer

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.