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 which repeals and replaces the Domestic Violence Act 1995 and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018 which amends the Bail Act 2000, Crimes Act 1961, Sentencing Act 2002, Evidence Act 2006, Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and Care of Children Act 2004.

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 inflict family violence. It also:

  • updates the definition of family violence to better reflect how controlling behaviour can be used over time to frighten a victim and undermine their autonomy
  • provides a set of principles to guide decision making and support a consistent, appropriate and timely response for all
  • names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as Family Violence Agencies
  • makes a range of changes to Protection Orders to improve uptake and effectiveness and increase the safety of protected people
  • clarifies that a carer can also be in a close personal relationship with the person they care for
  • increases the maximum duration of Police Safety Orders and increases support for bound people
  • removes legal barriers to information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety

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 Act:

  • ensures that the safety of victims, including children, is the priority when courts make decisions on bail
  • creates the new family violence 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 a Protection Order being in place when an offence is committed an aggravating factor to be considered at sentencing
  • introduces a ‘family violence flag’ to make cases more visible in the system
  • gives family violence offending greater visibility in the courts

Improved protection for children and victims

The Care of Children Act has been amended 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 they have concerns about the safety of a child or adult
  • empowers judges to impose protective conditions for child handover arrangements if there’s been family violence including psychological violence
  • requires judges to consider the existence or breach of a Protection Order when they assess a child’s safety.

Related documents

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

Cabinet Paper: A modern and victim-focused Act [PDF, 393 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)