It can be challenging to leave a situation of domestic violence. Thankfully, the law is on your side. Victims of abuse can get fast legal protection for themselves and their families via domestic violence injunctions. These injunctions can restrict an abuser’s actions, limit the abuser’s contact with you, and support you in your efforts to recover and protect your family.
The state of North Carolina recognizes two types of domestic violence injunctions, also called protective orders. Each one must be issued by a judge. A person who has shared a “personal relationship” with you may be legally bound by the court order if the person has caused harm (or attempted to cause harm) to you or your minor child. The harm could involve bodily injury, behavior that places you or a family member in fear of serious injury, continued harassment, or a sexual offense. Victims without a personal relationship to the perpetrator should apply for a no-contact order against stalking and harassment.
When you apply for legal protection against an abuser in North Carolina, you will first file a form called “Complaint and Motion for Domestic Violence Protective Order.” The domestic violence protective order (DVPO), also called a “50B order” or “restraining order,” lasts up to one year with the possibility of extensions. You can ask for an extra two years in some circumstances, as long as you make the request before your DVPO expires.
When you file the initial Complaint, you should also ask for an emergency ex parte temporary protective order. “Ex parte” means the defendant does not have to be present. If approved, this will immediately grant protection to you and your family—although it cannot be enforced until the defendant is served. A judge may hear your request for an emergency order on the same day, but you must be heard within 72 hours or by the end of the next day that court is in session (whichever comes first). The ex parte order protects you until the full court hearing for the DVPO, which will take place 10 days after a judge grants the order or 7 days after the defendant is served (whichever comes later).
The hearing’s purpose is to decide whether your ex parte order should be extended into a full, one-year DVPO. The hearing can play out in several different ways. If you don’t attend the hearing, the court will drop the order and cancel the ex parte. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the judge will usually just grant the full DVPO, although some judges may ask the victim to testify on the stand. In cases where you both appear in court, the defendant can choose to contest the order. If there is consent, there will be no trial or testimony and the order will be issued. If the order is contested, you will both be sworn in, take the stand, and present your testimony and evidence.
Following a hearing, the judge can maintain the DPVO for one year or dismiss it. The terms will usually be the same or similar to the ex parte order. The DVPO can do several things: make the abuser stay away from you, prevent them from contacting you, have them leave the shared home, give you temporary custody of a minor child, order them to attend a treatment program, and much more, depending on the facts of your case.
The attorneys at Easterling Law understand that this is a difficult time in your life. We strive to offer you compassionate legal support while advocating for your right to protection from those who would harm you and your family. Give us a call to discuss your case. We will do our best to offer you peace of mind.