A new Family Violence Act

Police were called to a family violence incident every 4 minutes in 2017

New Zealand’s high rate of family violence is not acceptable. The Government wants to make sure family violence victims are kept safe and people who use family violence are held to account. As a result, Parliament passed two major pieces of new legislation, the Family Violence Act 2018 and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018.

The Family Violence Act 2018

The Family Violence Act 2018(external link) takes effect on 1 July 2019. The Act replaces the Domestic Violence Act 1995 and gives decision-makers in the family violence system better guidance about the nature and impact of family violence.

The Act enables the family violence sector to have a more consistent response to victims and those who commit family violence. It also:

  • improves Police safety orders to protect victims and stop people committing family violence
  • introduces legal provisions to support family violence information sharing
  • recognises that dowry abuse is a form of family violence
  • clarifies that a carer and recipient of care relationship can be a type of family relationship
  • allows NGOs, with the approval of the Secretary for Justice, to apply for a protection order for a person who can’t apply themselves
  • empowers the court to direct people who commit family violence to attend a wider range of services 
  • requires the court to consider certain criteria when deciding whether to discharge a protection order (including a temporary protection order)
  • empowers the court to add any children of a victim to a protection order, even if they aren’t currently living with the victim.

The Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018

The Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018(external link) makes changes to a number of Acts to improve responses to family violence in both the criminal and civil law. The Amendments Act:

  • ensures 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 will FIRST consider the effect of the decision on the victim
  • creates the new serious offence of strangulation or suffocation
  • makes it an offence to force someone into marriage or a civil union in New Zealand or overseas
  • makes it a specific offence to assault a family member
  • makes breaching of a protection order a specific aggravating factor to be considered at sentencing
  • introduces a ‘family violence flag’ that can be attached to an offence so that court staff are aware of the potential risks associated with a case.

Improved protection for children and victims

The Amendments Act makes changes to better protect children and victims in parenting arrangements. It:

  • empowers judges considering applications under the Care of Children Act (CoCA) to make temporary protection orders where a CoCA order wouldn’t provide enough protection
  • empowers judges to impose protective conditions for child handover arrangements if there’s been family violence
  • requires judges to consider the existence or breach of a protection order when they assess a child’s safety.

The Amendments Act takes effect in two stages:

First stage (effective 3 December 2018)
Amends the Crimes Act 1961, the Bail Act 2000 and the Evidence Act 2006 to: 

  • introduce the new offences of strangulation or suffocation, coerced marriage or civil union, and assault on family member 
  • prioritise victim safety in bail decisions and enable video evidence.

Second stage (effective 1 July 2019)
Amends the Care of Children Act 2004, the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and the Sentencing Act 2002 to put in place the remaining changes identified above.

Videos

Learn more about strangulation or suffocation, forced marriage, and assault on a family member.

Related documents

To read more about the changes, see the below documents:

Cabinet Paper:

A modern and victim-focused Act [PDF, 393 KB]

Factsheet:

A new Family Violence Act [PDF, 120 KB]

For more information about the background to the changes, see the following:

Cabinet Paper 1:

Context and supporting integrated responses [PDF, 554 KB]

Cabinet Paper 2:

Family violence civil law [PDF, 558 KB]

Cabinet paper 3:

Prosecuting family violence [PDF, 521 KB]

For more information about the 2015 consultation, see Better family violence law(external link)