Family Support Services
Family Violence: support is readily available during lockdown
There is concern for the increased risk of family violence incidents during, and following, the lockdown period. Police have anticipated a greater number of family violence-related call-outs, while Women’s Refuge has seen an increased demand for alternative accommodation and support.
We understand the importance and urgency of helping clients, despite the restrictions, and this article provides some guidance on how we can help.
Business as Usual
Saunders & Co staff are still able to obtain instructions from clients and prepare urgent court applications remotely. We can discuss matters with clients via telephone, email, Zoom, Skype or Facetime if required. You do not need access to a computer for us to be able to help. We can call you if you are unable to contact us. Friends or family can provide us with your contact details and we can then connect with you from there.
Legal Aid for Family Matters
Saunders & Co is continuing to provide legal aid services for care of children and family violence matters. Legal Aid is accepting legal aid applications which are not signed by clients, however proof of income still needs to be provided, such as benefit verification from Work and Income New Zealand or bank statements.
Whether someone is eligible for legal aid depends on their income, assets and the merits of the case. When assessing income, Legal Aid may consider your current income and project it forward 12 months. If you have recently become unemployed, or lost income due to the current situation, then eligibility may be assessed on your current income. We will advise clients on any further changes made to the eligibility criteria.
Family Court Applications
The Family Court is continuing to operate during the lockdown by addressing priority matters such as personal safety, care and protection issues concerning children, and family violence applications. Without notice applications are continuing to be filed and heard by local judges as a priority during the lockdown period.
The Court is allowing for electronic filing of applications by email only during Alert Level 4. Filing fees for applications may be waived depending on the application.
Without Notice Applications
A without notice application has the effect of the Judge hearing the application before granting the other person the opportunity to respond. For example, for a Protection Order application, if it meets the legal criteria for granting a Temporary Order, then an Order will likely be granted. It will become final by law three months after the date on which is was made, unless discharged previously or the procedure is followed when the other person responds as to whether the temporary Order should become final.
In preparing court applications, we work with clients to find out the background of what has happened, prepare an affidavit and application on the information provided and then proceed to file the application on E-Duty, the electronic platform on which Judges review without notice applications.
There is a duty owed when filing without notice applications that all relevant information is put to the Court. It is important that clients provide a detailed background to the situation, even when that information is detrimental for their case.
Not all information has to be provided in an application as it can be requested that further evidence, which may not be accessible currently, is provided in a later affidavit.
The Court is allowing without notice applications and accompanying affidavits to be filed without being signed or sworn by the client. The lawyer will be required to provide the Court with reasons as to why the application and/or affidavit was not signed or sworn, and confirmation that the client understands and accepts the information included in that application/affidavit.
Those subject to family violence should not have to remain subject to abuse during or after the lockdown period. Support services and options for protection are considered essential services, and leaving the home because of family violence is classified as essential travel. Support is still available and the staff at Saunders & Co are happy to assist in any way that we can.
Options available to those subject to family violence include applying for Protection, Occupation and Ancillary Furniture Orders under the Family Violence Act 2018. This can provide the applicant with suitable protection from direct and indirect forms of contact from the abuser, while under an Occupation Order it can afford the applicant the right to occupy a specific property (such as the family home) for a period that the Court thinks fit. An Ancillary Furniture Order can grant the applicant exclusive possession of the furniture that the Order relates to.
Who can Apply?
A person who is, or has been, in a family relationship with another person can apply to the Family Court for a Protection Order against that other person. For a person under 16 years of age, an application may be made by a representative unless otherwise allowed by the Court.
What is Required?
An application for a Protection Order may be filed without notice only if:
- The respondent to the application has, or is, inflicting family violence against the applicant, or a child of the applicant’s family, or both;
- The making of an order is necessary for the protection of the applicant, a child of the applicant’s family, or both; and
- The delay caused by making the application on notice would, or might, entail serious injury or undue hardship or risk to the personal safety of the person applying, or any child of the applicant’s family, or both.
Occupation and Ancillary Furniture Orders
For an Occupation Order, on application when or after a Protection Order is granted, the Family Court may grant an Order giving the applicant the exclusive right to occupy the family home or other property that they have a legal interest in, such as a rental or leased property.
An Occupation Order may be made if the Court is satisfied that an Order is necessary for any of the following purposes:
- To meet the accommodation needs of the applicant, a child of the applicant’s family, or both:
- To enable the applicant to continue existing childcare, education, training, or employment arrangements for that person, a child of the applicant’s family, or both; or
- It is in the best interests of a child of the applicant’s family.
For an Ancillary Furniture Order, the Court may make an Order if it is satisfied that:
- The applicant, a child of the applicant’s family, or both, are or were living in the dwelling house; and
- The furniture, household appliances, and household effects are reasonably required to equip another dwelling house in which the applicant, or a child of the applicant’s family, or both, are or will be living.
Effect of an Occupation Order
If the Court grants an Occupation Order, then the respondent will be required to find alternative accommodation. The applicant and child/children can instead find accommodation elsewhere if needed. Support services such as Women’s Refuge or Shine can assist with finding suitable living arrangements during the lockdown. Further information about such services, including contact information, is provided below.
Complications arise with requiring the respondent to leave the property during Alert Level 4, particularly in terms of finding alternative accommodation and complying with guidelines to restrict the “social bubble”. It appears that in certain cases alternative accommodation is being funded and found at hotels and motels for some people, and support may be sought through many of the services we have detailed below.
It is also possible that those responding to an Occupation Order find accommodation with family. It is advisable however that they find accommodation with those who are not at an enhanced risk, such as those who are immunocompromised, have underlying respiratory or health conditions such as Diabetes or Asthma, or those who are over 70 years of age.
This is a developing situation and further guidance and information will likely be provided by Police and support services in due course.
The Government announced on 26 March 2020 that a $27 million dollar financial support package would be put in place to support the social sector during the lockdown period, including non-government agencies that provide family harm and crisis support services.
Various support services are considered essential services during Alert Level 4 and are available to those who are at risk or have been subjected to physical, psychological or emotional abuse.
Support for those who have been subject to family violence or who are at risk include financial maintenance or assistance with food, clothing and/or accommodation. Demand has increased during the lockdown for accommodation to the extent that people are housed in hotels and motels for the lockdown period. This can be seen as an option to preserve the social bubble that people are in for the period of the lockdown, so as to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to others.
We have provided information below for various services that can be accessed for appropriate support:
Telephone: 0800 733 843
Telephone: 0508 744 633
(Specialist provider to families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin)
Telephone: 0800 742 584
Are You Ok
Telephone: 0800 456 450
Safe to Talk
Telephone: 0800 044 334
Telephone: 0800 650 65
We are able to assist you with making contact with appropriate services, including traversing the Family Court process during this uncertain time. Safety is a paramount concern amidst COVID-19 and the Family Team is happy to answer any queries or provide further assistance where needed.
The impact of, and response to, COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis. This article is intended to provide general information only and it is advisable that you obtain independent legal advice about your situation.
Please contact a member of the Saunders & Co family team for further advice and information.