If you’re at risk of family violence, you can ask the court to give you a protection order. The court can make an order straight away if you need it.
A protection order means an abuser can be arrested if they hurt, threaten or even approach you or your children. You can apply for a protection order (external link) if you're in a domestic relationship with the person being violent.
It's a good idea to get a lawyer who knows about family law to help you apply for a protection order. If you're on a low income you might be able to get free Legal Aid.
Once your protection order is granted, the person named in the order must not:
- physically, sexually or psychologically abuse or threaten you or your children
- encourage anyone else to abuse or threaten you or your children
- damage or threaten to damage your property.
Protection orders are usually made in the the Family Court but they can also be made in criminal courts (like the District Court) at sentencing.
The order will include conditions preventing the person named in the order from being violent or abusive towards you or your children. The order will usually include some non-contact conditions – but you can choose to agree to some contact if you want to. You can even stay living together if that is what you want.
Non-contact conditions can prevent the person named in the order from:
- coming to your house or onto your property
- trying to stop you, your children or your friends or family from coming or going
- phoning, writing or contacting you in any way unless:
- there’s an emergency
- you give them written permission, or
- you’re both asked to attend a family group conference.
You can work with your lawyer or the Family Court to decide special conditions, for example, what happens when you pick up or drop off your children.
The person named in the order will probably have to attend a court-appointed ‘stopping violence’ programme.
By law, both parents have custody rights unless a court says otherwise. You can apply separately for sole custody if you’re worried about your children’s safety.
If there’s proven violence, the abuser usually won’t be allowed to see their children without supervision.
You’ll need to tell your children’s school, daycare and other caregivers about the order – and let them know exactly who’s allowed to visit the children or take them away.
For more information about protection orders and how to apply see help to get a protection order (external link) (New Zealand government website).
For more information about family violence see the list of government and community services for people affected by family violence on this website.