For those living with domestic violence, a problem that can impact those of any age or economic status, the situation can seem hopeless. An abusive partner can control not only finances and transportation but also time by monitoring the whereabouts of a victim throughout the day, making it difficult for those in an abusive relationship to escape their situation. When children are involved, the stakes are even higher.
In North Carolina, however, there are several different legal avenues that are available for those attempting to flee a violent relationship to protect themselves and their families from an abuser. Domestic violence – which covers assault, sexual assault, stalking, kidnapping and other offenses that can result in serious injury or death – can be stopped with injunctions that come in several different forms, each providing protection for different situations.
Domestic Violence Protective Order
Also called a restraining order or a 50B, the domestic violence protective order (DVPO) was introduced in 1979 and amended several times during the 1980s. The form initially protects a victim from being contacted or threatened by a former abuser for up to a year, but it can be extended for up to two additional years if the request is made before the initial time limit of the restraining order expires.
A 50B covers not only acts of domestic violence – physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse – against a spouse or partner, but also violence or sexual abuse against minor children.
If a plaintiff (the person filing the paperwork) shares a home with the abuser, a 50B can require that the defendant move out or pay for other housing for the plaintiff, can give the plaintiff temporary custody of both children and pets, and can order spousal or child support. A 50B can also require the defendant to undergo counseling for anger management or enter a treatment center.
To obtain a restraining order, there are certain steps to be taken.
- The clerk of court, located at the county courthouse, will have the forms necessary to grant a domestic violence protective order (DVPO).
- The forms will require you to divulge information regarding previous incidents of violence or threatening language, with as many details as possible, including dates of the incidents.
- Fill out the form, but don't sign it until you are in front of a notary. If you complete the paperwork at the courthouse, the clerk can take your oath.
- Provide information about any firearms the defendant may possess so they can be confiscated by police. The 50B order will prevent your partner from purchasing any other firearms after the existing guns are confiscated.
- Request temporary custody of your children.
- Appear before a judge or magistrate who will grant you an ex parte order or an order without the abuser present.
- Ensure that the papers are delivered to the sheriff's department. In North Carolina, the sheriff will serve the ex parte restraining order and other paperwork on the abuser.
- When the sheriff's department delivers the 50B restraining order on the abuser and the defendant is no longer able to contact the plaintiff.
- After the paperwork is delivered to the defendant, a hearing will be scheduled allowing both sides to address the court. In most cases, housing, temporary custody and other issues will be settled at this hearing.
- If a judge grants the 50B and the abuser contacts the plaintiff, the abuser can be jailed.
If the plaintiff is residing in North Carolina but is a citizen of another state – for example, the plaintiff is a resident of Virginia but is currently residing in North Carolina with a partner – a 50B-2 can be filed to protect the plaintiff.
Ex Parte Temporary Order
In an emergency situation when proven danger is imminent, a judge can grant a 10-day ex parte (without the other party) order, which is usually granted if a plaintiff or child's welfare is at risk. An ex parte order goes into effect as soon as the defendant is served with the papers, and covers the time until the 50B becomes legally binding.
The temporary order not only can include a temporary restraining order in advance of the 50B, but it also may include emergency child custody orders in order to protect children from physical or emotional harm if the judge issuing the order finds that the child is at risk. A judge can also prevent the other parent from visitation or can order supervised visitation, depending on what he or she believes is in the best interest of the child. Additionally, if you are being stalked by an acquaintance or a stranger, a Civil No-Contact Order, also known as a 50C, can be filed to prevent unwanted contact. A 50C also covers cyberstalking.
If you are in a situation where you feel your safety is in jeopardy, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you file the proper paperwork to make sure you and your children are safe from an abusive partner. Call us today at 704-861-0700.