WHAT ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Where do I find help?
Domestic Violence can feel inescapable, but it is not. You take the first step to fight back when you admit what is happening in your home and the second step when you seek help. These two brave steps deserve applause and a helping hand. That’s where we come in. You are not just a statistic to us. We are here to answer your questions, and fight alongside you to help you obtain the legal protection you need and deserve.
What should I do first?
First and foremost, if you and/or your children are in a dangerous situation, you need to get to a safe place either with family or friends or at a domestic violence center. You also need to call your local law enforcement officials to make an official statement.
If you safely can, contact us before you leave your home so we can make sure all legal steps are taken from the very beginning. We can also advise you if you have any current court orders that would be violated if you remove your children from the residence.
When you are safe, we can lead you through the process of filing for a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO). North Carolina’s legal system has strong laws to quickly and efficiently protect victims of Domestic Violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence occurs when one person commits at least one act against a person with whom he or she has been in or is in a personal relationship or against a minor child living with that person. Several forms of Domestic Violence by the aggressor exist:
- Intentional physical harm or attempted physical harm;
- Production of constant fear of physical harm in a member or members of the household;
- Creation of constant fear of continued harassment in a member or members of the household, which leads to significant emotional distress; and
- Rape or any type of sexual abuse of a member or members of the household.
What is a “personal relationship”? It is:
- People who are currently or formerly married;
- Two people of the opposite sex who live together or did live together;
- Parents and children; grandparents and grandchildren;
- Two people who have a child or children together; or
- Current or former co-habitating individuals
Two people of the opposite sex who are or were dating one another
To apply for a DVPO, all you need to report is one of these four types of Domestic Violence. You may report after only one instance of one of these acts.
What will the protective order do?
Simply, this order protects a victim of Domestic Violence from his or her aggressor. But, it covers many more specific aspects, including but not limited to the following relief. The Judge’s discretion determines what he includes in each order, or he may add something not on this list.
- Bans the aggressor from the victim’s home, school, and/or workplace;
- Bans the aggressor from their child(ren)’s school and/or daycare;
- Bans the aggressor from contact with children who are in the care of the victim;
- Protects the victim’s family or other household member from threats from the aggressor;
- Protects their animals or pets from harm by the aggressor;
- Allows the victim possession of any animals or pets;
- Allows the victim possession of their residence, while evicting the aggressor from that location;
- Allows the victim possession of their vehicle;
- Demands the aggressor pay temporary child support to the victim;
- Bans the aggressor from possessing and/or purchasing a gun;
- Demands that the aggressor immediately surrender all firearms, ammunition, and gun permits; and/or
- Demands that the aggressor attend a treatment program.
How do I obtain a protective order?
First, don’t get overwhelmed! North Carolina offers a pre-printed form for the Complaint and Motion for Domestic Violence Protective Order to simplify the process.
This one form, which is available on the North Carolina Courts website or in each county’s Clerk of Superior Court’s office, is all you need. You may fill this form out on your own or have a lawyer handle this for you instead.
If you choose to fill out this form on your own, be clear and specific in your details. List all facts related to the Domestic Violence issues in order to give the Judge reviewing your Complaint a crystal clear picture of the act(s) of Domestic Violence you survived.
Check all boxes you need to feel safe and protected in your current situation.
I filled out the form. What now?
Once you complete the form, you will file it at your county’s Clerk of Superior Court’s office, located inside the courthouse. Some counties have a special office for domestic violence so you will need to ask when you arrive at court.
Each county follows its own procedure for submitting a Complaint and Motion to the District Court Judge, and some counties have a Magistrate review it instead. You may be directed to a courtroom and may speak to a judge, or you may not.
Once your paperwork has been reviewed, the Judge will issue an Ex Parte Domestic Violence Order of Protection if your case meets the qualifications; if he determines your case does not qualify then the Judge will deny your Complaint and Motion.
What is an Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protection Order?
This Order exists for emergency situations, such as Domestic Violence cases, where only one person in a situation appears before the Court to present his or her side. This is a temporary order, and only lasts ten days, or until the Court holds a hearing.
Once the Order of Protection is issued, you will immediately receive a court date within ten days of the Order’s issue date.
The Clerk of Superior Court’s office will send both the Complaint and Motion you filed and the Ex Parte Order issued to the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the aggressor resides. A deputy will be detailed to properly serve the defendant at the address you provided on the form. The deputies will inform him or her of the order and explain that they are not allowed to contact you in any way.
What happens at the Court hearing?
At this court hearing, you will likely be asked to testify. This will be your opportunity to explain in more detail—clearly and specifically—what happened to you. The defendant will have the opportunity to explain his or her side of the case as well. Your testimony should be detailed and factual without exaggerating.
You will want to provide any evidence you have of the abuse, such as medical reports, photographs, and other physical evidence. The Judge may examine any injuries you have as well. If you have any witnesses they will need to testify too.
The key to properly presenting any evidence lies with proper organization. You should highlight the most important facts and submit your information clearly and concisely. Make sure all evidence you submit to the Judge supports your claims of abuse.
After this hearing, the Judge will either grant or deny a permanent DVPO that can last for up to one year.
How long does it last?
This DVPO lasts for up to one year from the court date; however, prior to its expiration, you may request a renewal. Pay close attention to the date the order expires. Do not wait until it expires, or you will not be able to renew.
Can I renew the order?
Yes. The renewal process begins with a Motion to Renew Domestic Violence Protective Order. Similar to the original Complaint and Motion, this form is also available on the North Carolina Courts website or in each county’s Clerk of Superior Court’s office.
Make sure you are specific and clear on this form as well. Again, you will appear in court to bring your case before the Judge. He or she will review your case and determine whether to renew or deny your request. If you are granted renewal, your DVPO may be renewed for up to two additional years.
What if the Order is violated?
If you suspect a violation, first call 911. The violator can be arrested on the spot for any violation.
Knowingly violating a DVPO or ex-parte DVPO is typically classified as a Class A1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 150 days in jail. North Carolina law allows more serious violations and repeated instances to be punishable as felonies instead.
Remember to call 911 first, but you can also file a motion with the Court, and ask the Court to hold them in contempt of the Court order. To begin this process, fill out the Motion for Order to Show Cause for Domestic Violence Protective Order. Once more, you may obtain this form on the North Carolina Courts website or in each county’s Clerk of Superior Court’s office.
Repercussions for contempt include fines and/or further jail time.
What about my children?
A DVPO can grant a domestic violence victim temporary custody of their children, but this is not a permanent solution. As a result, we can guide you through the steps necessary to ask for permanent custody or to initiate a custody proceeding.
You will need to file a second complaint to handle any permanent child custody, child support, alimony, or equitable distribution needs.
What should I do now?
You are not alone in this battle. We are here for you, and ready to help you first through your courageous first step toward freedom from abuse. Call us today to schedule a consultation, or click here to schedule a consultation online!