The legislation

On 1 July 2019, the Family Violence Act 2018 came into force. This replaced the Domestic Violence Act 1995. The remaining provisions of the Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018 also came into effect on 1 July 2019. These amend a number of other Acts. 

The Family Violence Act, 2018

The purpose of the Family Violence Act, 2018 is to "stop and prevent family violence" by:

  • recognising that family violence, in all its forms, is unacceptable; and stopping and preventing perpetrators from inflicting family violence; and keeping victims, including children, safe from family violence." 

- definitions of family violence

Definitions are provided of family violence, abuse and psychological abuse:

  • Family violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse, and dowry-related violence.
  • Psychological abuse can include: threats, intimidation, harassment, damage to property, ill-treatment of pets/animals, financial or economic abuse, and hindering or removing access to necessary aids, devices, medication, or other support.
  • Violence can include a pattern of behaviour that may be coercive or controlling or causes the person, or may cause the person, cumulative harm.
  • A single act may amount to abuse, and a number of acts that form part of a pattern of behaviour (even if all or any of those acts, when viewed in isolation, may appear to be minor or trivial) may amount to abuse.
  • Causing or allowing a child to see or hear the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse of a family member (or putting a child at risk of this) is considered psychological abuse of the child. (However, the person subjected to the abuse is not considered to have caused or allowed the child to see or hear the abuse.)

Definitions are also provided of "family relationship" (general, sharing household, and close personal relationship) 

A person may be considered to have a close personal relationship with another person if they are the recipient of care-carer relationship 

- types of abuse have been expanded

The types of abuse the violent person must not do will expand to include:

  • ill-treating a house pet or other animal that’s important to someone or their family
  • harassing behaviour such as loitering near where someone lives or works
  • disrupting the care of someone who needs it because of their age, disability, or health condition.

- definitions of family violence have expanded

The definition of family violence will also expand to include:

  • coercion or controlling behaviour
  • dowry-related abuse
  • one act or several acts that form a pattern of behaviour, even if they seem to be minor or trivial.

- consent to contact

If the protected person wants to have contact with the respondent, they must say it’s OK (give consent) in writing. They can give written consent by email, letter, text or other digital message. However, if the court included special conditions restricting contact (such as supervised contact for a child or other non-contact conditions), they must be followed.

The protected person can change their mind and stop contact with the respondent. They can withdraw consent at any time in any way (so they don’t need to do it in writing, they can just tell them).

- breach of a property order

A breach of a Property Order will be treated as a breach of a Protection Order. This means breaching a Property Order is an offence and the offender can be arrested.  

The Family Violence (Amendments) Act, 2018

The Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018 makes changes to a number of Acts to improve responses to family violence in criminal and civil law. These mended the Bail Act 2000, Crimes Act 1961, and the Evidence Act 2006 to:

  • provide that the safety of victims, including children, is the priority when courts make decisions on bail. For example, before deciding on a perpetrator’s bail, the court is to first consider the effect of the decision on the victim
  • create the new offence of strangulation or suffocation
  • make it an offence to force someone into marriage or a civil union in New Zealand or overseas
  • make it a specific offence to assault a family member
  • enable video evidence

The Ministry of Justice has produced videos providing information about strangulation or suffocation, forced marriage, and assault on a family member.