New Zealand Law & Domestic Abuse

The Family Violence Act 2018 is the key NZ law about family violence, which superseded the Domestic Violence Act 1995 on 1 July 2019. Most of the Act did not change, as it continues to provide for protection orders, property orders, Police safety orders, safety programmes for adults and children who experience family violence, and non-violence programmes for adults who perpetrate family violence.

Definition of Family Violence

This is the definition of ‘Family Violence’ under the Family Violence Act 2018, which has been modified from the previous definition of ‘Domestic Violence’ under the Domestic Violence Act 1995.

“Family Violence” is violence against a person by any other person with whom that person is, or has been, in a family (domestic) relationship.

Violence against a person includes a pattern of behaviour made up of a number of acts that are all or any of physical abuse, sexual abuse or psychological abuse, and that may

  • be coercive or controlling (done to coerce or control the other person, or with the effect of coercing or controlling the person) and/or
  • cause the person cumulative harm
  • be dowry-related violence, i.e. relating to gifts, money, property etc. given or received for a marriage or proposed marriage

A single act may amount to abuse. A number of acts that form part of a pattern of behaviour may amount to abuse, even though some or all of those acts, when viewed in isolation, may appear to be minor or trivial.

Psychological abuse includes:

a) threats of physical or sexual abuse or of any of the following

b) intimidation or harassment, including watching, loitering near or hindering access to a person’s place of residence, business, employment, education or any other place the person visits often

c) stalking or being on or in anyplace that constitutes a trespass

d) damage to property

e) ill-treatment of household pets or other animals whose welfare is likely to affect a person’s well-being

f) financial or economic abuse

g) where a person is unable by reason of age, disability, health or other cause, to withdraw from the care or charge of another person, hindering or removing access to any aid or device, medication, or other support that is likely to affect the person’s quality of life

A person psychologically abuses a child if that person causes or allows the child to see or hear the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse of a person with whom the child has a domestic relationship.However, the person who suffers the abuse as defined above is not regarded as having caused or allowed the child to see or hear that abuse.

Psychological abuse may be behaviour that does not involve actual or threatened physical or sexual abuse.

For information on Protection Orders and Police Safety Orders.

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