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Family law

Protections against family violence: An overview

Types of relationships covered by the family violence laws

What is a “family relationship”?

Family Violence Act 2018, ss 12–14

For violence to be “family” violence, the two people must be in a “family relationship”. That doesn’t mean you have to be living together.

Two people are in a family relationship if they are:

  • partners or spouses (husbands and wives)
  • family members
  • sharing a household, or
  • in a close personal relationship, which can include a caregiver relationship.

These types of relationships are explained in more detail below.

Partners and spouses (husbands and wives)

Family Violence Act 2018, s 8

This includes people who are, or who have been:

  • married or in a civil union together
  • a de facto couple (including same-gender couples)
  • biological parents of the same child.

Family members

Family Violence Act 2018, s 8

“Family” includes people who are:

  • related by blood, marriage, civil union, de facto relationship, or adoption, or
  • members of the same whānau or other culturally recognised family group.

People who share a household

Family Violence Act 2018, s 13

“Sharing a household” means more than just living in the same building. There must be some interaction and shared responsibilities – like with flatmates, for example. It also has to be more than just a landlord-tenant relationship.

People in a close personal relationship

Family Violence Act 2018, s 14

Whether two people are in a “close personal relationship”, as the term is used in the family violence laws, will depend on what kind of relationship it is and how intense it is. In particular, it will depend on:

  • how much time the people spend together
  • how and where that time is usually spent, and
  • how long the relationship has existed for.

There doesn’t have to be a sexual relationship for there to be a close personal relationship to exist. It can include a variety of relationship types, including caregiver relationships.

You won’t be in a close personal relationship with the other person just because the other person is your boss or employee or co-worker.

What if there isn’t a “family relationship”?

If you’re not in a family relationship with the violent or abusive person, you should still contact the police. The other person may have committed a criminal assault, or another offence such as criminal harassment under the Harassment Act 1997.

If the other person hasn’t committed a criminal offence, you may be able to apply to the District Court for a restraining order against them under the Harassment Act, which covers some types of abusive behaviour outside of family or household situations (see the chapter “Harassment and bullying”).

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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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