What orders can protect a Domestic Violence victim in North Carolina?
Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPO) – N.C.G.S. Chapter 50B
There are various means of protection which a domestic violence victim can obtain from the court system depending on the nature of his or her abuse, including:
- A Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order
- A Civil No-Contact Order
- A Permanent Civil No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender
For representation and assistance with a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) in the Charlotte area, contact the experienced domestic and family law attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. Once a DVPO is granted, there will be additional issues of Child Custody, Child Support, Equitable Distribution and possibly Alimony. Call our Charlotte domestic and family law attorneys (704) 844-1400 to discuss your personal circumstances.
What is a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order?
One of the main ways in which a lawyer can assist you during this process is through the securing of a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order through the civil court system. These protective orders offer a variety of protections for victims and contain some of the harshest penalties available under the civil system of law. These include:
- Ordering the abusing party to refrain from further acts of violence and/or harassment
- Giving the victim possession of the residence and excluding the other party from access to the home
- Evicting the abusing party and assisting the victim in returning to their home
- Requiring the abusing spouse to provide alternative housing, if returning to the home is not an option
- Blocking the abusing party from coming to the victim’s place of work and school
- Granting temporary child custody
- Determining possession of personal property
- Confiscation of all firearms owned by abusing party
- Disallowing the abusing party from purchasing additional firearms
- Civil and criminal penalties if any of the specific remedies
The violation of a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order comes with criminal consequences in North Carolina as a class A1 misdemeanor charge. However, this does not mean that the police themselves will be aware of every Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order. Enforcement of the terms of a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order is up to person who holds the protective order. He or she must notify his or her local police in the instance of a violation of the order in order for the police to move forward with charges.
To obtain a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order, you must have a current or former relationship with the person against whom you are seeking the Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order. This relationship can be that between spouses or other romantic partners, but may also be the relationships between parents and children or other people who are living together. One parent may, on behalf of his or her minor child, obtain a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order against the other parent.
There are three grounds under any one of which a person can obtain a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order, by demonstrating that the offending spouse or cohabitant: 1) attempts to cause or causes bodily injury to the other party, 2) places the other party in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, 3) or harassment which rises to the level of inflicting substantial emotional distress. This means that not only physical violence between partners is defined as domestic violence in the state of North Carolina, but also threats of physical violence as well as harassment and stalking behaviors.
How do I obtain a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order in North Carolina?
Once a Complaint and Motion for Domestic Violence Protective Order is filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court, a hearing on the matter can take place. This Complaint and Motion require basic information for both the victim and the abuser, as well as information regarding any minor children in the household or common between the parties. Additionally, the Complaint and Motion are where the victim lists the specific events which have caused him or her to seek the protection of the court. There are two hearings associated with obtaining the Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order—the Ex Parte hearing and what is commonly referred to by attorneys and Judges as the ‘ten day’ hearing. Both of these hearings are before district court judges.
Typically, the first hearing to take place is the ex parte hearing—during which the court will decide whether or not to grant an Emergency Ex Parte Order of Protection. These orders are temporary, and their period of protection is very brief. At this hearing, neither the defendant nor his or her counsel is present. Ex Parte orders are best utilized if there is danger of serious and immediate injury to you or your minor child. At the hearing, the judge will review your Complaint and Motion and listen to your testimony before deciding whether to grant or deny the Emergency Ex Parte Order of Protection. At this time the judge will issue whatever combination of the orders listed above that he or she feels will best protect the victim. At most, an Emergency Ex Parte Order of Protection is good for 10 days from the date of issuance.
Additionally, at this hearing, the judge will schedule an additional hearing regarding the granting of a more permanent Order of Protection, regardless of whether or not the judge elects to grant the Emergency Ex Parte Order of Protection. This hearing typically takes place at the expiration of any Emergency Ex Parte Order of Protection, earning it the name ‘Ten Day’ hearing. Alternatively, you can decide not to pursue an Emergency Ex Parte Order of Protection, and instead elect only to have a Ten Day hearing.
Before this second hearing, notice will be sent to the defendant and he or she will be allowed to have an attorney present, put on evidence, and provide testimony for his or her position. At this hearing, the judge will consider whether to continue the Protective Order for up to one year, or if no Emergency Ex Parte Protective Order was previously granted, whether a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order should be granted at that time.
What do I do after obtaining a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order?
If you are successful in receiving either a Permanent or Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protective Order, there are several things which you need to keep in mind moving forward in order to protect yourself.
- If you have reason to believe that the other party has in some way broken the terms of the Domestic Violence Protective Order, call 911 immediately.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times. While the breaking of the order does result in misdemeanor charges in North Carolina for the defendant, it is up to the Plaintiff to inform the police of violations of that order. Therefore, it is wise to keep this order on your person in order to show to relevant law enforcement officers.
- If the protective order extends to your child’s school, your school, your place of work, or other public places, notify the individuals supervising this areas of the order and provide them with a copy of the same if necessary.
- Remember, neither you nor the defendant can modify the terms of the order. You cannot consent to unauthorized contact with the defendant. Any contact outside of that allowed in the order can result in criminal consequences for the defendant.
NO-CONTACT ORDERS: N.C.G.S. Chapter 50C and Chapter 50D
While by far and away the most common order sought by victims of domestic violence is the Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order discussed above, there are also two other types of orders, both referred to as civil no-contact orders which may also be appropriate depending on the victim’s specific situation. The first is a general Civil No-Contact Order, which can be good for up to one year and is outlined in N.C.G.S. Chapter 50C and a more specific permanent no-contact order which is specific to victims of sexual assault and the assailant, is good for the remaining life of the assailant, and is outlined in N.C.G.S. Chapter 50D.
Unlike Civil Domestic Violence Protective Orders, neither type of no-contact order requires the same type of domestic relationship between the parties. In fact, Chapter 50C expressly states that a person seeking a 50C Civil No-Contact Order cannot be in a relationship with the defendant which would qualify them for a Chapter 50B Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order. However, while Chapter 50B does cast a wide net in terms of relationships in which domestic violence can be present, it does not account for every possible scenario or relationship in which domestic violence may be a factor.
Civil No-Contact Orders Under North Carolina General Statute, Chapter 50C
A Civil No-Contact Order, as its name implies, bars contact between the defendant, upon whom it is taken out, and the victim. To obtain a civil no-contact order under North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 50C, either the victim, or a competent adult residing in the state acting on behalf of a minor victim or incompetent victim, must seek protection from “unlawful conduct,” which is defined as either nonconsensual sexual conduct or stalking.
Nonconsensual sexual conduct can be anything from penetrative sex to touching or groping, so long as it is done without the victim’s consent and performed intentionally or knowingly by the defendant for the purpose of sexual gratification. Stalking, in turn, is defined by statue to mean the following or harassing of another person without legal purpose, either to: 1) placing a person in reasonable fear as to that person’s own safety or the safety of that person’s immediate family or close personal associates or 2) to case that person to suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury or continued harassment.
Civil No-Contact Orders under Chapter 50C follow largely the same process as Civil Domestic Violence Protective Orders as defined in Chapter 50B. They bar the defendant from making contact with the victim both in person and through the telephone or over the internet. Temporary, Ex Parte No-Contact Orders can be granted by a court without the defendant present; however, they are only effective for ten days. At that ex parte hearing, a permanent hearing date is set. If granted at the permanent hearing, at which the defendant is present and allowed to present evidence and testimony in his or her defense, the civil no-contact order will be effective for a time period of up to one year. These orders, like Civil Domestic Violence Protective Orders can also be renewed at one-year intervals.
Permanent Civil No-Contact Orders Against Sex Offenders on Behalf of Crime Victims Under N.C.G.S., Chapter 50D
This last form of civil no-contact order is very specific in its scope and only applies in very specific scenarios. Nevertheless, for a victim it can be a very effective means of protection, as it is a permanent relief which will last for the life of the person who committed the sex offense. However, due to the potential longevity of this order, it can only be sought by victims of sex offenses against those defendants who have been convicted of that same sex offense. A Permanent No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender can be brought either by the victim his or herself, or if the victim is a minor or otherwise incompetent, by a competent adult residing in the state on behalf of the victim.
In order to obtain a Permanent No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender, Chapter 50D of the North Carolina General Statutes states that the victim must be able to show that: 1) the defendant was convicted of committing a sex offense against the victim, and 2) that reasonable grounds exist for the victim to fear future contact with the defendant.
Permanent No-Contact Orders Against Sex Offenders, like the other type of No-Contact Order discussed above, prohibits the defendant from any form of contact with the victim. However, unlike the other orders discussed above, there is no option for ex parte, temporary relief. Instead, there is only one hearing, much like that in considering a Permanent Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order or a general Permanent No-Contact Order, in which the defendant is given notice of the proceedings, is allowed to attend and put on evidence in his or her defense. Again, if granted, a Permanent No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender under North Carolina general Statutes, Chapter 50D is truly permanent, and only expires upon the death of the defendant.
One key difference in both types of no-contact orders when compared to a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order is what happens when a no-contact order is violated. When a Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order is violated, the punishment given to the defendant is to be charged with a class A1 misdemeanor. This charge is criminal and exists entirely separately from the Civil Domestic Violence Protective Order itself. However, when either of the no-contact orders discussed above is violated, the victim must seek out the court through the civil and criminal contempt processes. While these processes may also result in fines and potential jail time, they are connected to the no-contact order underlying the contempt charge.
For crisis and counseling services, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224—Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
For those in the greater Charlotte Metro area, also contact Turning Point, Incorporated – Domestic Violence Center at (704)283-9150 or Safe Alliance at (704) 332-2513.