The Family Court can make a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act if they are satisfied that there has been physical, sexual or psychological abuse between people in certain relationships, and that an order is necessary for the protection of the applicant and/or a child.
In urgent circumstances, protection orders can be obtained very quickly – often on the same day that you make the application. This is when the application is made ‘without notice’ to the other person. If an order is made, it will be temporary and automatically become final after three months unless the other person opposes it.
Applications can be made on notice in less urgent circumstances, which means that the other person has a chance to defend the application before a Judge makes a decision.
It is also possible to apply for orders giving the protected person the right to exclusively occupy a home (whether it is owned or rented, and in either party’s name) and use the household furniture and chattels. In addition, there may be childcare and parenting (custody) issues which need to be addressed.
A final protection order will last indefinitely unless one party applies to discharge it and the Court agrees that is appropriate. Children covered by protection orders will remain protected until they are 17 years old, or longer if they continue to live with the applicant.
The standard conditions of protection orders include that the other person cannot have any contact with anyone protected by the order, and cannot abuse or threaten to abuse them, damage or threaten to damage their property, or encourage anyone else to do so. They are also not allowed to have any firearms or other weapons, and will generally have to complete a non-violence programme. There can also be other special conditions made, such as that they do not come within two kilometres of the protected person’s home.
It is important to remember that you can only apply for a protection order against someone if you have been in a ‘domestic relationship’ with them. This includes spouses and partners, family members, people who usually live together and people in a close personal relationship. If you are not in a domestic relationship, you may instead be able to apply for a restraining order under the Harassment Act.
If you have been served with a protection order, or an application for one, we recommend that you seek legal advice to better understand your options. If you do not agree with what has been said in the application, you may wish to defend the proceedings. The time limits for defending depend on whether a temporary order has been made, or there has been any order reducing your time to reply.
If you think you are in immediate danger, you should call the police on 111. They may issue a police safety order, which is similar to a protection order and can last for up to five days.
If you would like any further information or advice about these matters, please contact our Wellington based family lawyers Debbie Dunbar, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (04) 495 9940 or Maretta Twentyman, email email@example.com, phone (04) 495 8918.
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