NZ'S INDEPENDENT RESPONSE-SYSTEM WATCHDOG
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News and views from The Backbone Collective which advocates for women and children who have experienced violence or abuse and who are enduring further harm from New Zealand's Family Court. 

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The 'man' who brought nothing to the relationship other than fists and violence demanded that he be paid for abusing me.

  Image - Betrayal - artist anon   A New Zealand woman shares her story of continued financial abuse from her physically and psychologically abusive partner after a Protection Order removed him from her life.

Image - Betrayal - artist anon

A New Zealand woman shares her story of continued financial abuse from her physically and psychologically abusive partner after a Protection Order removed him from her life.

TRUE STORY: A woman's outrage and despair at potentially having to financially reward her ex partner for his violence and abuse to her, her pets and her property throughout their relationship. Even though this man contributed nothing to their relationship except fear and violence and a few odd jobs around the property, he is seeking a huge cash payment from her. The Relationships (Property) Act 1976 states that all relationship property is to be shared equally when a relationship ends.  She explains that in determining whether there are grounds to deviate from the 50/50 split, the Family Court makes it clear that neither domestic violence nor the lack of financial contribution by one party are deemed to be sufficient reasons to do so. 

THE 'MAN' WHO BROUGHT NOTHING TO THE RELATIONSHIP OTHER THAN FISTS AND VIOLENCE DEMANDED THAT HE BE PAID FOR ABUSING ME.

I had suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of a man who lived with me (in my home) in an on/off relationship for around 7 years in total. He ended the relationship several times and all contact ceased.  Then, months later he would reappear and I would believe him when he said the violence would stop.   I would accept his word,  give him a chance, but quickly discovered that the violence was never far from the surface, bubbling away and waiting to explode. 

There was no loving relationship.  At no stage did we live together as a couple for 3 years continuously. 

Although he was in my home I felt like his hostage. I lived in fear for many years, too scared to speak up in case I triggered another violent episode. I often slept fully clothed, keys in one pocket, mobile phone in the other.  My car was always parked pointing towards the road.  He had said on several occasions that he wouldn't leave unless I paid him a large sum of money.

After a really scary incident one night involving him abusing me and breaking property of mine, I called 111. The next day a Protection Order was granted.

If I thought life was going to improve with a Protection Order, I was wrong, very wrong. I discovered to my horror that the abuse doesn't stop once a Protection Order has been issued.

I had a barrister working for me when I sought the Protection Order. I very quickly learnt that barristers and freedom from violence don't come cheaply. Over the next 18 months I spent more than $10,000 on legal fees.

The ex (I now call him 'the applicant') filed proceedings against me seeking a massive property settlement from me.

Yes, the 'man' who brought nothing to the relationship other than fists and violence demanded that he be paid for abusing me, my pets and belongings. The police told me that he could smash whatever he wanted to because, technically, the property was half his.

The police told me that he could smash whatever he wanted to because, technically, the property was half his.
— Domestic violence survivor with a Protection Order whose abuser is using the Family Court to continue his financial abuse of her.

During the relationship I worked. He didn't. I owned my own home - purchased prior to meeting him. He had lived a transient lifestyle and his only asset was some property worth 15% of the value of my home. His property has been deemed to be separate property despite me paying the rates on it for several years.

He made no financial contribution during the time we were together. He wasn't interested in working and literally walked off two jobs in the time that I knew him.

The court says that a 50/50 split' applies unless the circumstances of a case are so extreme as to warrant a deviation from the rule. Domestic violence is so common in New Zealand that it isn't deemed to be a reason for awarding other than the 50/50 split.

Domestic violence is so common in New Zealand that it isn’t deemed to be a reason for awarding other than the 50/50 split.

As many women have discovered, despite all the "It's Not OK" campaigns, New Zealand Family Law tells a chillingly different story.

Not only is it OK to be violent - play your cards right and you can be set for life when the court gives you a whopping tax free payment compliments of the woman you abused.

Not only is it OK to be violent - play your cards right and you can be set for life when the court gives you a whopping tax free payment compliments of the woman you abused.

I think most of us would agree that when we enter relationships we don't think that the relationship will end and the other person (with whom at that point we are head over heels in 'love' with) will put out his/her hand and seek a substantial payout from us.

I remember that early in our relationship, my partner said that if things went wrong with our relationship, he would never make a claim against the property.  That was before the violence began.

I remember that early in our relationship, my partner said that if things went wrong with our relationship, he would never make a claim against the property.  That was before the violence began.

We need to urgently review and amend legislation to protect victims of family violence.

I believe that in cases where a relationship ends due to family violence and where a Protection Order has been issued, that the Property Relationship Act should no longer apply where its application would be detrimental to the rights of the victim.

There needs to be a different way of considering the property division when there is violence and abuse which considers:

  • the financial position of both parties prior to entering the relationship, whether both parties worked and contributed in the purchase of the family home and the running of the household

  • the impact of the violence and abuse on the victim

  • the nature and value of any damage caused to property

There needs to be a different way of considering the property division when there is violence and abuse.

I'm in my sixties and I am working part time and I am now self-representing in court.

My barrister encouraged me to represent myself in court ... me who has never had a parking ticket or a speeding fine is learning how to prepare affidavits and interlocutory applications, preparing settlement offers to try and get the applicant off my back.

I’m appearing in the Family Court before a judge who tells me that it is irrelevant that the applicant didn't work and was violent towards me.

The applicant/abuser receives 'legal aid'. At 60 something he has declared himself to be 'retired' as he refuses to work, and he won't apply for a benefit.

Justice ... where is the justice? The system is screwed ... totally screwed.

New Zealand might have been the first country to give women the vote, but it falls down dramatically when it comes to human rights' issues.

New Zealand might have been the first country to give women the vote but it falls down dramatically when it comes to human rights’ issues.
 

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about the backbone collective

New Zealand has the highest rate of women experiencing violence and abuse in the developed world, which is due in part to our broken response system.

The Backbone Collective is an independent body taking action to change New Zealand's dire statistics by examining the response system through the eyes of its users - women who have experienced violence and abuse.

Please join us as either a woman who has experienced violence or abuse, or as a volunteer who wants to help by volunteering your time, services or expertise.

Many reports have been written about where the system is broken but they have fallen on deaf ears. We think that Government and others in a position of power will start listening when hundreds, and potentially thousands, of women speak up about what needs to change.