A protection order is made by the Family Court to protect people from family violence. Family violence is violence that happens within families/ whānau or close personal relationships. Family violence can be hurting someone physically. It can also be hurting someone emotionally, psychologically, financially and/or sexually. It can be a one-off incident, or a pattern of behaviour and actions that may seem small on their own but are used to scare and control someone over time. Family violence and domestic violence are the same. Family violence happens in a range of different family and personal relationships, and the types of violence can be different. For example, using force or threats to control someone (coercive control) is a common type of violence in partner relationships.
The Court can make the order if it’s satisfied that:
- there has been family violence, and
- the order is needed to protect the person who has applied for the order (the “applicant”) or their children, or both, from the person who has been violent (the “respondent”).
It’s a criminal offence to breach (disobey) a protection order.
First, read the order or application carefully. If you don’t understand what it means, see a lawyer or contact the nearest Family Court.
If you’ve been served with a temporary protection order you have the chance to go to Court to oppose the order before it becomes final if you think your side of the story hasn’t been heard.
Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to help you do this. You or your lawyer will tell the Family Court that you want to oppose the order. The Court will then set a date for a court hearing. Your lawyer will help you prepare to put your side of the story at the hearing. If you do nothing, there won’t be a hearing, and the protection order will automatically become final (permanent) three months after the date on which it was made. If you want to put your case to the Court, you should file these documents:
- Notice of Intention to appear
- Affidavit – This is the evidence to support your case. It must say why you think a final protection order shouldn’t be made. The affidavit must be sworn (signed) by you in front of a lawyer (not your own lawyer) or a Court Registrar.
While you wait for the Court to grant your objection, you must still adhere to its conditions, including attendance at a non-violence programme. If you do nothing the protection order will become final after three months and, it will stay in place permanently or until such time as the Family Court is satisfied that the applicant will be safe from violence.
If you’ve been served with an application for a protection order this means the applicant has asked the Family Court to make a protection order, but the Court hasn’t made one yet.
You can tell the Family Court – before it decides what to do – why you think it shouldn’t make a protection order. The Court will hold a hearing where you can put your side of the story. The Court will then make a final decision. To oppose the application, contact a lawyer to help you prepare for the hearing. The date of the Court hearing will be on the documents they give you, either on the application or on a “Notice of Hearing”. To oppose the application, you should file these documents:
If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, you may be able to get legal aid. This is where the Government pays some or all of your lawyer’s bills. Legal Aid
If the Family Court makes a protection order, the order will include some “conditions” – these are rules that say what you are not allowed to do:
- Non-violence conditions always apply.
- Non-contact conditions apply unless the applicant agrees to you living with them.
- There may also be special conditions in the protection order to deal with a particular situation.
If you breach (disobey) the conditions in the order, you have committed a criminal offence and can be arrested.
Every protection order includes non-violence conditions. These are rules that stop you from being violent or abusive towards the applicant or their children. These non-violence conditions say that you must not:
- abuse the applicant or anyone else protected by the order, whether physically, sexually or psychologically
- threaten to physically or sexually abuse the applicant or any other protected person
- damage, or threaten to damage the applicant’s property or the property of any other protected person
- encourage anyone else to abuse or threaten the applicant or any other protected person.
Non-contact conditions (when you are living apart)
Unless the applicant agrees to live with you, you must obey the “non-contact conditions” in the protection order. These are rules that stop you from going around to the applicant’s home or having any other kind of contact with the applicant or their children.
The non-contact conditions say that you must not:
- go to the applicant’s home or workplace or go onto their property (unless they say you can)
- harass them, or scare or intimidate them
- hang around their neighbourhood or workplace
- follow them
- try to stop them coming or going
- phone them, or send them a letter, email or text, or social media (like Facebook) or contact them in any other way.
The non-contact conditions also cover any children under 17 who usually live or stay with the applicant or anyone else who’s name is on the protection order as a protected person. Sometimes a protection order will name some other person as an “associated respondent” if you encouraged that person to be violent towards the applicant. In that case, the associated respondent is also banned from contacting the applicant or their children.
If the applicant wishes to have contact with you, they must say it’s OK in writing – by email, letter, text or social media. They can change their mind and stop contact at any time. They don't need to do it in writing; they can tell you to leave or to stop contacting you.
If the applicant agrees to live with you, the non-contact conditions stop while you’re living together. The non-contact conditions start again if the applicant tells you they no longer agree to live with you. The applicant doesn’t have to go back to the Family Court to apply for a new protection order. This means that if the applicant asks you to leave at any time, you must do this.