List MP Angie Warren Clark will introduce the Family Procedure Amendment Bill in Parliament today. This bill is the dream of Ashley Jones, who has campaigned for changes to divorce laws for those in abusive marriages for the past three years.
Ashley’s story is about a woman who turns to the legal system to help thousands of others who are having the same experience. She has never given up on herself, or on the belief that all victims of abuse should have more rights. After leaving her abusive marriage in 2020, Ashley found herself in the bind of the two-year separation required by law before she could file divorce papers. During that time, she was subjected to financial and emotional abuse from her husband, who refused to properly participate in the separation proceedings. In Ashley’s case, after two horrific years she tried to file her divorce papers. But she was told that her documents could not be processed because she did not know her husband’s whereabouts. It took another 11 months before she was officially divorced from her abusive husband.
With the support of the Haute Valley Women’s Shelter, Ashley decided she could use her story to shine a light on the outdated law and help other people in abusive marriages by petitioning to change the law. In 2021, Ashley took her petition to the steps of parliament. The statement “Change the antiquated divorce laws so that victims of abuse can be free from their abuser” was signed by 5,310 people and received high media coverage across the New Zealand mainstream media. Public reaction was disbelieving as to why the current law persists and how disabling domestic violence victims are. In many other countries, when there is evidence of spousal abuse, divorce is granted quickly to enable people not to remain trapped in the control of their abusive ex-partners for two years after separation.
“I hold so much anger at these outdated laws and regulations that do nothing to help victims of abuse and instead only exacerbate the ongoing trauma they suffer,” says Ashley.
Ashley is a former client of the Hutt Valley Women’s Shelter, and they walked by her side when she found the courage to leave her abusive marriage and made it her mission that no one else would have to go through what she did so she could move on and live her life free from violence and the control of an abusive partner. Hutt Valley Women’s Refuge is incredibly proud of Ashley and all that she has achieved; She is making a huge difference for thousands of women and children affected by domestic violence in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Reading of the Divorce Law in Parliament, Wednesday, August 3, 2023
Reading by: List Rep. Angie Warren Clark
- Family Actions (Dissolution due to Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill
- Draft for consultation by Angie Warren Clark
- User Bill
public policy statement
Everyone deserves to live a life free from violence, and all people should have the right to feel safe in a relationship and leave that relationship if they experience domestic violence. Addressing domestic violence is essential to improving the well-being of families and children. This bill aims to reduce the harm caused by domestic violence in New Zealand by allowing one party to a marriage or civil union to apply for an order to dissolve the marriage or civil union if they are a victim of domestic violence committed by the other party to the relationship (as evidenced by a court decision to register protection order under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 or through the Penal Code 2002).
Read the rest of the bill here: