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Communtity Law Manual | Family law | Family violence & elder abuse | Family violence and elder abuse

Family violence and elder abuse

Protection from abuse by family and carers

What this chapter covers

This chapter provides information about New Zealand’s family violence laws and the law protecting older people from abuse by family members or caregivers.

Information about the family violence laws

Most of the chapter is about the Family Violence Act (which used to be called the “Domestic Violence Act”), and the tools available under that Act for protecting victims of violence and abuse. The chapter explains:

  • the kinds of behaviour that amount to “family violence”
  • the types of relationships covered by the family violence laws
  • adults’ responsibilities to children in their care, including protecting them from seeing or hearing family violence
  • the law against smacking children as punishment
  • Police Safety Orders, which are made by the police to provide immediate, short-term protection against family violence
  • how to apply for a protection order from the Family Court
  • what a protection order does, including the different rules (“conditions”) that must be obeyed by the person who’s been violent or abusive
  • about non-violence programmes for people who have had a protection order made against them, and support programmes (“safety programmes”) for victims of the abuse and violence
  • how protection orders are enforced by the police and the courts, including what happens if an order is breached
  • how and when a protection order comes to an end
  • what a person can do to challenge a protection order that’s been made against them
  • about special employment rights and protections when there is family violence.

The final section in this chapter is about laws that protect older people from abuse and neglect, both under the criminal law and under the family violence laws.

A court can issue a protection order to help keep you safe from future domestic violence

Protection orders tell the other person that they have to:

  • not hurt, threaten or harass you
  • stay away from you and any child of your family and not contact you (unless you want to stay living together, which is allowed)
  • hand any firearms they have to the police
  • attend a non-violence programme
  • meet other requirements (see below for more details).

If there is a child involved, the court will also issue orders about what contact the person can have with the child.

Protection orders are usually dealt with urgently, without telling the other person until they’re issued.

You don’t need a lawyer to get a protection order, but it is a good idea to have one.

The only evidence you need to give the court is a written statement from you, explaining what has happened, and why you need the protection order.

Breaching a protection order is a criminal offence, and the person can be arrested immediately.

It’s best to apply for a protection order as soon as you realise you need one, rather than waiting a long time.

A change in language: From “domestic” to “family” violence

This year’s edition of this chapter includes all the changes made by the new Family Violence Act 2018, which has replaced the old Domestic Violence Act 1995 from 1 July 2019. Much of the law is still the same, but there are some important changes.

One change is the name of the Act. It talks about “family” violence now, not “domestic” – this emphasises the fact that violence can happen in a range of intimate and family settings, both inside and outside the home, and that this violence isn’t a private or “domestic” issue.

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