If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be wondering how to get a restraining order in North Carolina. Rest assured that there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. This blog post will provide an overview of how to obtain a restraining order in NC. We will also discuss the different types of restraining orders available and what they can do to protect you.

What is Domestic Violence in North Carolina?

Domestic violence is a toxic pattern of abuses used to dominate and control others. Abuse may take many forms, such as the following:

  • Physical force
  • Sexual abuse
  • Menacing threats or harassment
  • Name-calling or humiliation
  • Seclusion from family and friends
  • Restricted access to what you need, including finances, transportation, or the ability to work (1)

North Carolina legal definition of domestic violence includes acts of:

  • Attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Intentionally causing bodily injury
  • Placing you or your child in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
  • Continued harassment and stalking if causing you substantial emotional distress
  • A sexual offense such as rape or sexual assault, or battery

If you are in immediate danger, you should call 911. Should you feel threatened, intimidated, or fear physical violence in your home, it is critical to reach out to the police immediately. Inaction can lead to danger for you and any children!

Both genders can be both victims or perpetrators in domestic abuse cases. Regardless of sex, calling 911 can help prevent tragedy and potentially help officers charge an abusive person with criminal charges.

Violence of any kind should not be tolerated or ignored; both emotional intimidation and physical force are punishable by law.

For help considering whether your situation is abusive or to find help and resources, reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or talk with The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV) at  919-956-9124

What is a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO)?

A Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) or a “50B order” is an invaluable court-issued decree that ensures the safety of victims by requiring abusers to stay away.

By law, if the abuser disregards a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) in North Carolina, they can be arrested immediately.

If you feel cornered as a victim of abuse, filing a DVPO can help you begin to find your way out of an abusive situation. Seek out the help and resources you need for yourself and any children. And finding a safe situation for you and your family is crucial!

What Can Domestic Violence Protective Orders Do?

Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPO) include many protections to keep you and any children safe. Many 50B orders include protections such as:

  • Ordering an abuser to have no contact with you, any minor children, or other family or household members
  • Giving you possession of the home and excluding the abusive partner
  • Awarding you temporary child custody
  • Ordering eviction of the abusive partner from your residence
  • Assistance for you to return home
  • Ordering abusive partner to pay temporary child support for minor children (if required by law)
  • Giving you possession of the combined personal property
  • Granting you temporary physical custody of a pet or minor child. If the parties do not already have a child custody order, the judge can decide on temporary custody of the children, including joint custody or visitation. This decision can only last for up to one year, and is replaced by a court’s child custody order 
  • Awarding you attorney fees
  • Ordering additional requirements necessary to protect you and others
  • Prohibiting the abusive person from purchasing a firearm
  • Ordering sheriff to deliver protective order to kids’ school principals
  • Ordering the abusive partner to attend and complete an abuser treatment program approved by the Domestic Violence Commission

Initially issued for up to one year, DVPOs may also be renewed annually for two years at a stretch.

What is a Civil Court Hearing for a Protective Order?

When you file a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), you open a case in civil court. You become the plaintiff, and the abusive person becomes the defendant. In the DVPO hearing (usually within 10 days), you present your case for needing law enforcement protection. The abusive person (defendant) will generally try to prove that they have not acted abusively.

In contrast to criminal convictions, a DVPO does not appear on the defendant’s criminal record. However, DVPO cases are a matter of public record. And, if the abuser violates the DVPO, they can face arrest on the spot!

Violating a DVPO is a criminal act punishable by the full extent of the law.

Who Can File an NC Restraining Order

Anyone living in North Carolina, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, can file for a DVPO. You can file for a DVPO against anyone you have one of the following relationships:

  • Spouse or ex-spouse
  • Someone who currently or previously lived with you or in the same household as you
  • Someone you have a child with
  • A parent, child, grandparent, or grandchild
  • Someone you have had a dating relationship with

If you have been abused sexually or stalked and don’t qualify for a 50B DVPO, you can request protection from the perpetrator in the form of a civil no-contact order (often referred to as a “50C” order).

With a 50C, law enforcement will not arrest a defendant for violating the order. Instead, a judge can hold the defendant in contempt of court. You can get the form needed to file for a 50C order from the clerk of court in your county or online.

How Do I File a DVPO?

Local domestic violence agencies often assist victims in filing for DVPOs. You can find your local agency here. In certain counties, victims can file with a designated agency without the requirement of going to court. Instead, they have direct video access to an available judge.

To start the process in other countries, victims visit the clerk of court’s office at their local courthouse to retrieve Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) paperwork.

Talking with an experienced family law attorney can help you get a temporary protective order, also known as an ex parte temporary protective order. An ex parte order gives immediate protection. This protection begins before a hearing where the abuser is also present.

Preparing Evidence For a DVPO Hearing

Your testimony and the testimony of the abusive person are both forms of evidence. You may also bring:

  • Witnesses
  • Pictures
  • Documents
  • Recordings

You should bring all evidence and witnesses to court with you. Once the hearing begins, you will not have the opportunity to stop the hearing and find additional evidence or witnesses. An attorney can discuss with you the evidence needed to prove your case.

Court officials, such as judges and clerks of court, cannot provide you with legal advice about your rights and obligations or the likely outcome of your case based on your situation. If you represent yourself in court, a judge will hold you to the same rules of procedure and evidence as a licensed attorney.

Because it’s difficult to represent yourself, it makes sense to hire a family law attorney whose focus includes DVPO hearings. They can walk you through each step of the court process and help you make your case.

Our Experienced DVPO Attorneys Can Help

At Plekan Law, our family law attorneys are experienced in helping victims of abuse get the protection they need. We understand that this is a difficult time and that you may feel overwhelmed or scared.

We are here for you and will take the time to explain your rights under North Carolina law, help prepare your court case, and represent you during any hearings.

If you need a DVPO or have other family law issues, please get in touch with us today so we can help. We look forward to speaking with you.