A Protection Order is a legal order designed to protect you and your children from further violence. It is issued by a District Court or a criminal court.
It tells the abuser that they cannot abuse you, and they cannot contact you if you are not living together. The abuser will also have to go to a Stopping Violence programme.
Getting a Protection Order is one step you can take to give the abuser a clear message that you want the violence to stop. At the same time you apply for a Protection Order you can also apply for court orders that allow you to keep living in the house you own or rent with the abuser, and/or have some of the furniture to use.
Sometimes it may not be safe to apply for a Protection Order. You’ll know for yourself if there’s a risk that it will put you in more danger. A Women’s Refuge advocate can help you work out what will be safest for you and your children.
Who can apply for a Protection Order?
Anyone in a domestic relationship can apply for a Protection Order. You are in a ‘domestic relationship’ if the other person is your current or ex-partner, spouse, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, brother or sister, grandparent, flatmate, room-mate, other whānau or family member, child, child’s parent, or close personal friend. You don’t have to be living together.
A Protection Order will protect you and any child under 17 that usually lives with you. Children can also apply with the help of an adult. A third party can apply on behalf of someone else, and you can apply even if you have used violence yourself.
The Protection Order can also say that the abuser must hand in any firearms and weapons to the police, and their firearms licence will be cancelled unless police can be assured that you are safe.
In the Protection Order the abuser is called the ‘respondent’. You will be referred to as the ‘applicant’ or the ‘protected person’.
When you get a Protection Order, keep a copy of it with you at all times, and leave copies with a friend’s or whānau/family member. Phone your local police station to make sure it has been sent a copy from the court.
How does a Protection Order protect you?
The Protection Order has non-violence conditions that say the abuser must not:
- physically, psychologically, or sexually abuse or threaten to abuse anyone protected by the order
- damage or threaten to damage your property
- encourage anyone else to abuse or threaten any of you.
If you’re not living with the abuser, there are also non-contact conditions that say the abuser must not:
- go to your home, workplace, or property unless you consent; intimidate or harass you or your children; hang around your neighbourhood or workplace or follow you; stop you or your children from coming and going; or contact you by phone, letter, fax or any way (including email) unless there is an emergency.
If you choose to live with the abuser, the non-contact conditions won’t apply, although the non-violence conditions remain.
If you don’t want to live with the abuser anymore, and you ask them to leave, the non-contact conditions come into effect again automatically. The abuser also has to go to a Stopping Violence programme. It is a good idea to put it in writing that you don’t want to live together.
How does a Protection Order protect your children?
Any children who usually live with you are included in your Protection Order. The only time children might not be included is if they don’t live with you and you don’t see them regularly. You can also name other people on your Protection Order who are also being abused or threatened by the abuser.
How does a Protection Order protect where you live?
When you take out a Protection Order, there are other orders available that allow you to live in the house you shared with the abuser, or have the use of the furniture and appliances:
Occupation and/or Tenancy Orders
These let you stay in the house/flat that you shared (rented or owned), even if you previously moved out. The abuser must move out, even if they own the place.
This lets you have some or all of the furniture and appliances from the home you shared. The abuser cannot take them away or smash them up. The police can accompany you when you go to remove the furniture. You don’t have to have an Occupation and/or Tenancy Order to get a Furniture Order.
How do I apply for a Protection Order?
Most women use a lawyer to help them apply for a Protection Order: it’s best to hire a family lawyer who knows the Family Court system. You will need to give a statement, called an ‘affidavit’, about why you feel unsafe.
This should include details about the violence, and the effect that the physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse has had on you and your children. The judge needs to know how serious the violence is.
Women’s Refuge does not recommend that you get an ‘undertaking’ instead of a Protection Order. This is when the abuser agrees or undertakes not to be violent. There are no criminal charges for breaking an undertaking.
Can I apply for a Protection Order without a lawyer?
It is possible to go to the court and make your own application for a Protection Order, although we recommend that you use a lawyer if possible. We have found that women aren’t always able to get Protection Orders, or good decisions about care of their children, if they apply without a lawyer.
Your local Women’s Refuge, Community Law Centre or court staff can give you more information about applying for a Protection Order, and may be able to help you do it yourself. Download the Community Law Centre’s A Guide to Applying for a Protection Order.
How much does it cost?
There is no fee for applying for a Protection Order. But if you choose to have a lawyer, lawyers charge from $500 and up for a Protection Order. It will cost more if the abuser defends the order, or if there are care of children arrangements that need to be worked out.
If you’re on a benefit or a low income, you may be eligible for Legal Aid and the Protection Order will not cost you.
How long does it take?
If the Protection Order is granted ‘without notice’, it is possible to get a temporary order within 24 hours. Sometimes it takes a few days. In emergency cases, you can get a Protection Order granted at the weekend and during public holidays.
You can ask for the Protection Order to be without notice if any delay will put you or your children at risk of harm or hardship. This is often the safest way to get a Protection Order.
When will the abuser find out about the Protection Order against?
The abuser will not be told about the temporary order until it has been granted to you. A bailiff or the police will take a copy of the Protection Order to the abuser in person, and explain to them what it means.
If the Protection Order is ‘on notice’, the abuser is told that you have applied for it. They will be given a period of time – anything from 24 hours or up to two weeks or longer – to put in a written defence against what you’ve said. A judge will then hear each side of the case, and decide whether or not to issue a Protection Order.
How can I keep safe during this process?
A Protection Order without notice is usually safer, but some women have found that it is harder to get immediate Protection Orders and some lawyers are encouraging ‘on-notice’ applications. If this happens to you, contact a Women’s Refuge or domestic violence advocate for help, and to work out your options for keeping safe while waiting for the Protection Order. We can help you make a Safety Plan.
To keep your address confidential from the abuser, make sure your lawyer completes a ‘Notice of residential address and request for confidentiality form.’ You may decide that it won’t be safe at all to go ahead with the Protection Order. Talk to your advocate and lawyer about this.
Can the abuser challenge the Protection Order?
A ‘without notice’ Protection Order is temporary for three months. In this time, if the abuser wants to defend the order, a hearing date will be set by the court, and a judge will consider both sides and then decide whether to make the Protection Order final.
If the abuser does not put in a defence against the Protection Order, it automatically becomes permanent after three months. If the Protection Order is ‘on notice’, a judge makes the decision about whether to grant the Protection Order if the abuser doesn’t challenge the application within the time given.
Will I have to go to court?
If you apply for a Protection Order ‘without notice’ a judge will usually grant a temporary Protection Order without seeing you. If the abuser then challenges either the temporary Protection Order or your ‘on notice’ application, you will need to appear in the Family Court.
Family Court is closed – the public are not allowed in. However, the abuser will be there. Talk to your lawyer and the Family Court Coordinator (FCC) if you are worried for your safety. You may be able to take a friend or advocate to awhi/support you in court.
Can I remove the Protection Order?
You can apply to the Court to have the Protection Order removed, or ‘discharged.’ However, we encourage you to keep it in place, even if you’re back together with your partner and things seem to be going well.
Despite what the abuser may tell you, you do not need to drop the Protection Order to prove that you love them, or want to work things out. The Protection Order was your choice, for your safety. It should stay to remind them that they must not be violent to you again.
The abuser can also apply to the court to have the Protection Order removed. If you do not agree, there will be a defended hearing, in which you both get to tell your side to the judge. The judge then decides whether the Protection Order should stay in place or be removed.
Can I attend an education and support programme?
If you take out a Protection Order you and your children can attend a free education/support programme, which will help you understand about family violence, and help you to keep safe. You can go to a programme any time within three years of getting the Protection Order.
The Family Court Coordinator can also refer you to someone who runs a programme in your area, or you can contact Women’s Refuge.
What happens if the abuser carries on being violent or keeps on contacting me?
The abuser breaches the Protection Order if they: physically, psychologically or sexually abuse you or your children; make any threats; damage your property; encourage others to abuse you; come on to your property, or follow you; or contact you in anyway (emails, texts, letters, phone calls, sending presents, etc). They will also be breaching their Protection Order if they don’t attend a Stopping Violence programme.
We encourage you to call the police to tell them about every breach of the Protection Order, even if it’s minor. You will know if the ‘small acts’ are actually intended to intimidate you and make you afraid.
<< Back to Legal & financial help