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Protections against family violence

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, or
  • family members, or
  • 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

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
  • 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, and
  • 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 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: “Getting protection under the Harassment Act”).

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Family violence and elder abuse

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice on how legal aid works, whether you might be eligible for the service, and the next steps.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Age Concern

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

Website: www.ageconcern.org.nz
Email: national.office@ageconcern.org.nz
Phone: 0800 65 2 105

Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS) – Office for Seniors

The Elder Abuse Response Service is a free, confidential 24-hour helpline.

Website: www.officeforseniors.govt.nz/our-work/raising-awareness-of-elder-abuse/elder-abuse-response-service
Email: support@elderabuse.nz
Phone: 0800 32 668 65
Text: 5032

Women’s Refuge

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

Website: www.womensrefuge.org.nz
Crisis line (24/7): 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843)
Email: info@refuge.org.nz
Instagram: www.instagram.com/womensrefugenz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/womensrefugenz

Family Violence – It’s Not OK

“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.

Website: www.areyouok.org.nz
Phone: 0800 456 450

Family Court

The Family Court website provides helpful information about family violence and the legal options available to keep families safe.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/family/family-violence

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on family violence and protection orders.

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/family-violence

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