Regrettably, another lockdown in New Zealand has seen a spike in the rate of family violence. This is an unintended consequence of families being kept home, stressed and potentially out of employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also an unintended consequence for people living in already abusive homes, as they are having to spend more time with their abuser - and thus be at a heightened risk for further abuse.
The key message is that if you are feeling unsafe and are being subjected to physical, emotional or psychological abuse during the lockdown period, you can still get help and do not have to remain in your bubble. If there is an immediate safety risk, ring the Police on 111.
Despite the lockdown, the Family Court is continuing to operate and deal with urgent matters, such as those concerning personal safety and the wellbeing of children, including proceedings relating to family violence, and care and protection matters.
We are working remotely and can assist with applications for protection orders and parenting orders, including on a without notice basis. Without notice means if there are immediate safety concerns, and the relevant threshold is met, a Judge would consider the application and make a decision on that same day, or at least within 24 hours of the application being filed, without hearing from the other party or notifying them of the application first.
In addition to applications to the Family Court, we can assist with liaising with the Police and putting you in contact with appropriate services that can provide additional support, such as alternative accommodation during this lockdown period. Shine, Women's Refuge and other services that deal with victims of family harm and sexual violence have been categorised as essential services and will be available to assist. You do not need to suffer during the lockdown period.
Finally, if you, or a child in your care, are affected by domestic violence, you can ask your employer for paid domestic violence leave and flexible working arrangements. We can advise you and assist in applying for domestic violence leave.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.