Domestic violence and marriage-like relationships SKU17062

Caroline Doyle, Patricia Easteal and Derek Emerson-Elliott

In this article, the authors look at recent happenings concerning Social Security law and domestic violence. Several decisions have been made in which women subject to domestic violence were found to qualify for discretionary rulings under section 24 of the Social Security Act 1991 (‘the Act’) that they were not members of a couple.  In this article, we look at some of these cases, and try and predict whether a trend has been established or whether there has merely been a swing of a pendulum that is destined to swing back to a more cautionary approach. We also review the arguments for and against an amendment to section 4 of the Act (section 4 defines ‘member of a couple’). We look too at developments in New Zealand and how lessons can be learnt from our closest neighbours in regards to legislation that should protect victims of domestic violence. Finally we focus on the recent evolution of the equitable doctrine of unconscionable conduct to support our contention that some victims of domestic violence do not truly consent to their status as a member of a couple and that this should be taken into account by decision-makers.

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Caroline Doyle, Patricia Easteal and Derek Emerson-Elliott
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