The firm has successfully defended against claims of domestic violence and secured restraining orders for victims of domestic violence. If you have been served with a domestic violence protective order (“DVPO”), you should not contact the complaining party or violate the order and contact an attorney. A violation of a DVPO, including an ex parte DVPO, has serious criminal consequences. A person who violates a DVPO may be charged with a Class A1 misdemeanor for knowingly violating the DVPO and the police must arrest a person who they have probable cause to believe has violated such an order.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the judicial system provides avenues for relief. You may file a complaint seeking an ex parte DVPO, which is granted on an emergency basis and lasts for 10 days, and a longer-term DVPO, which typically lasts for one year. To receive a DVPO, a party must show she has a personal relationship with the abuser and that an act of domestic violence has occurred. Both of these requirements are defined below.
Under Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes, domestic violence is defined as one or more of the following acts committed upon you or your children:
- Attempting to or causing bodily injury; or
- Placing you or a member of your family in fear of imminent serious bodily injury (which is a subjective test rather than an objective reasonableness test); or
- Placing you or a member of your family in fear of continued harassment which inflicts substantial emotional distress (which includes harassment occurring through written communications, telephone calls, emails, voice mail messages, and other computerized or electronic transmissions); or
- Committing rape or other sex offenses, as defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.2 through § 14-27.7.
To be granted the DVPO, the filing party must also show, in addition to the above domestic violence act(s), a “personal relationship” which means the parties are one of the following:
- Current or former spouses;
- Cohabitating persons of the opposite sex;
- Related as parent and child;
- Parents of a child in common;
- Current or former household members; or
- Persons of the opposite sex in a dating relationship.
A party seeking a DVPO begins the process by filing a Complaint and Motion for a Domestic Violence Protective Order. On this form, the party may also seek an ex parte DVPO, which is an emergency order granted by the court based on the complaining party’s testimony before a judge which lasts for 10 days and is effective immediately. A summons must also be issued and served on the defendant with the complaint, notice of hearing, and any temporary or ex parte orders which have been granted by the court. Because an ex parte DVPO is a temporary measure, the party who filed the Complaint must return to court for a full hearing within that 10-day period. At the hearing, the victim may testify as to why a protective order is needed and the defendant may present reasons why it should not be granted. If the court grants a DVPO, the order may not exceed one year, which can be later renewed.
The relief a court may provide in granting an ex parte DVPO or a one-year DVPO is extensive. In addition to ordering the defendant to refrain from domestic violence, a court may order additional forms of relief, including any of the following:
- Possession of the marital home to the plaintiff and eviction of the defendant;
- Temporary custody of the minor children and temporary visitation;
- Defendant to pay temporary spousal and/or temporary child support;
- Possession of personal property of the parties, including vehicles and pets;
- Defendant to surrender firearms; and
- Attorney’s fees to either party.