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Communtity Law Manual | Family violence & elder abuse | Preparing to end a violent relationship

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”). 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/get-help/staying-safe
  • 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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