Protective Orders and Domestic Violence

Each year, an estimated 10 million children are witnesses to some form of domestic violence. Statistics show that one in four women will be victims of domestic violence during their lifetime. A report from the State Attorney General’s office concludes that 122 North Carolinians were victims of homicide stemming from domestic violence in 2012, with Mecklenburg County being the second highest number of domestic violence related deaths in North Carolina.

Victims of domestic violence do not have to suffer alone. Any person residing in North Carolina may seek a Chapter 50B, Domestic Violence Protective Order (“DVPO”). This includes both women and men.

To have standing, or the ability to file a claim, under Chapter 50B, a party must have a “personal relationship” with the person against whom he or she is seeking a DVPO. North Carolina law has defined a “personal relationship” as meaning a relationship between:

  • Current or former spouses;
  • Persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
  • People who are related as parents and children or as grandparents and grandchildren;
  • People who have a child in common;
  • People who are current or former household members; or
  • Persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship.

Those without a personal relationship may still be able to file under a Chapter 50C, Civil No-Contact Orders.

For the judge to be able to grant a Chapter 50B, DVPO, the judge must find that the defendant committed one or more of the following acts of domestic violence:

  • Intentionally caused bodily harm to the plaintiff;
  • Attempted to cause bodily harm to the plaintiff;
  • Placed the plaintiff in fear imminent serious bodily harm; or
  • Placed the plaintiff in fear of continued harassment that rises to such a level to inflict substantial emotional distress.

If the judge finds an act of domestic violence has occurred, the judge can grant an emergency ex parte temporary order that can last up to 10 days. After the 10 days, there will be a second hearing to see if a permanent order is an appropriate form of relief. A permanent DVPO can last up to one year and can include the following types of relief, per N.C.G.S. §50B:

  • Order the defendant to refrain from threatening, abusing, harassing, or following the plaintiff;
  • Grant to a party possession of the residence or household of the parties and exclude the other party from the residence or household;
  • Award temporary custody of minor children and establish temporary visitation rights pursuant to G.S. 50B-2;
  • Order the eviction of a party from the residence or household and assistance to the victim in returning to it;
  • Provide for possession of personal property of the parties, including the care, custody, and control of any pets; or
  • Prohibit a party from purchasing a firearm for a time fixed in the order.

A person who knowingly violates a valid protective order can be found guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor.

A DVPO may be renewed for a fixed period of time. The plaintiff must show there is good cause for the renewal and must file a motion to renew before the expiration of the current order. However, a temporary award of custody entered as part of a protective order may not be renewed. It is important to seek a custody action prior to the expiration of the protective order.

If you are in immediate need of protection, do not wait any longer. At Rech Law, P.C., we will be your advocate during this stressful time of your life and be there to guide you through this process.