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Family law

Protections against family violence: An overview

Preparing to end a violent relationship

When can I leave a violent relationship?

Legally, you can leave or end a relationship whenever you want. A relationship ends whenever you decide you don’t want to be in it anymore.

For immediate help, call the police on 111 and report family violence (see “Types of relationships covered by family violence laws” in this chapter). The police can issue a temporary Police Safety Order or PSO (see “Police Safety Orders: Immediate, short-term protection against family violence” in this chapter).

You might need support to get a Protection Order, which lasts longer, so it’s a good idea to get advice and support from a Women’s Refuge, your local Community Law Centre, or another lawyer as soon as you can (see “Applying for a Protection Order: Long-term protection against family violence” in this chapter). Applying for a Protection Order is free, but if you have help from a lawyer you will need to pay their fees. To get a Protection Order, you don’t need special proof, you just need to write down what kind of family violence has happened. A lawyer can help you tell your story to a judge in the Family Court.

‘Legal Aid’ is financial help so you can afford a lawyer even if you are on a benefit or low income. In cases of family violence, it’s easier to qualify for Legal Aid, so it’s worth finding out if you can get it. (see the chapter “Legal Aid and other legal help“). If you don’t get Legal Aid, you can ask your lawyer if you can pay their bill in weekly instalments.

Some practical advice about ending a violent relationship

As well as getting a Police Safety Order (PSO) or a Protection Order, the following actions may be a good idea to make things easier for you, or to help keep you safe. Here are some practical tips:

  • make a safety plan for you and any children or other people involved. Go to the Women’s Refuge site for more support: www.womensrefuge.org.nz
  • write down what kind of family violence has been happening, remembering this can include physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse (see “Types of relationships covered by family violence laws” in this chapter)
  • see a doctor to discuss the family violence
  • take photos of anything relevant, like broken belongings, damage to your house or car
  • write a list of any witnesses who have seen or heard the family violence
  • if you and your partner have shared finances, open a new bank account in just your name
  • make copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, rent or mortgage agreements, insurance policies, and so on) and keep them with you
  • talk with trusted friends and family, and your neighbours, about what’s going on
  • change your passwords online for social media, banking and other important websites and for your mobile devices, and block people who make you feel unsafe
  • make an appointment with Work and Income if you might need financial support.

Once you have a Protection Order

Once you have a Protection Order, you may want to consider changing locks, alarm codes, and passwords.

If you have children, speak to their teachers and other key adults. Give copies of the Protection Order to people in charge of their sports clubs, after school activities, and so on.

Your nearest police station will be given a copy of the Protection Order. You’re welcome to go and introduce yourself to the officers there.

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Family violence and elder abuse

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Age Concern


Age Concern provides a range of resources on aspects of life for older people including elder abuse.

Phone: (04) 801 9338 or 0800 65 2 105
Email: national.office@ageconcern.org.nz

Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS)

Helpline: 0800 32 668 65

With this confidential 24-hour, free-phone helpline, registered nurses will listen and provide information and support about elder abuse – whether the caller is calling on their own behalf or is concerned about a friend or family member. Callers will then be referred to local elder abuse services to get the help they need.

Family Court


This Family Court webpage provides pamphlets and other information giving an overview of how family violence is dealt with in the courts and how Protection Orders can help keep people safe from family violence. The website also provides information on responding to a Protection Order application.

You can access the pamphlets online, or you can order hard copies by contacting the Family Court on:

Phone: 0800 587 847
Email: publications@justice.govt.nz

Family Court family violence forms

These forms, and a guide for how to complete a Protection Order application, are available at www.justice.govt.nz/family/family-violence/protection-order-forms

Family Court fee waiver forms

These forms are available here:


Independent Police Conduct Authority


Postal Address: PO Box 5025, Wellington 6145

Phone: (04) 499 2050
Phone: 0800 503 728

Email: info@ipca.govt.nz

The IPCA receives and investigates complaints against the police. A complaint form is available online.

“Family violence” (Law Society pamphlet)

Available at: www.lawsociety.org.nz/about-us/about-our-publications/law-awareness-brochures

Access pamphlets online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Phone: (04) 472 7837
Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

Women’s Refuge


Women’s Refuge provides 24-hour support, advocacy and accommodation for women and their children experiencing family violence.

Crisis Line

Phone: 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843)

Women’s Refuge provides a free phone line for people anywhere in New Zealand. Get information, advice and support about family violence as well as help in a crisis.

Fact sheets

A range of resources and fact sheets are available online.

Phone: (04) 802 5078
Email: info@refuge.org.nz

Family Violence – It’s Not OK


Phone: 0800 456 450

“It’s not OK” is a community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The website has resources for families who are experiencing abuse. It’s not OK is an initiative housed within the Ministry of Social Development.

Family violence and disabled people


Family violence and migrant families


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