North Carolina law provides a civil remedy for victims of Domestic Violence in the form of a Domestic Violence Protective Order (sometimes referred to as a 50B Order). A Domestic Violence Protective Order is designed to protect those who have been abused or threatened by someone with whom they have a “personal relationship.” North Carolina statute defines a “personal relationship,” as circumstances in which the parties involved:
- Are current or former spouses;
- Are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
- Are related as parents and children, including others acting in loco parentis to a minor child, or as grandparents and grandchildren. For purposes of this subdivision, an aggrieved party may not obtain an order of protection against a child or grandchild under the age of 16;
- Have a child in common;
- Are current or former household members;
- Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship. For purposes of this subdivision, a dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.
Once a Complaint for a Domestic Violence Protective Order is filed, the requesting party will receive a date and time for an ex parte hearing, which is a hearing before a District Court Judge, prior to service of the Complaint on the other party, where the judge will decide whether to enter an Emergency Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protective Order based on the Complaint and the testimony of the requesting party. In order to grant an Emergency Ex Parte Order, the judge must find that there is a serious or immediate danger to the movant or to a minor child who is a part of the Complaint.
Following the Ex Parte hearing, a date is set for a hearing on the Complaint once service has been completed on the other party. Complaints for Domestic Violence Protective Orders are always served by a sheriff. Once service has been completed, a hearing on the Complaint can proceed, whether the Defendant shows up or not. At this hearing, the judge will take testimony from both parties and any witnesses either party wishes to call, and determine whether to enter a “permanent” Domestic Violence Protective Order. Permanent, in this context, means that it will last for one year. If the party requesting the Protective Order wants an extension, they have the option to file for such at the end of the first year.
In addition to containing provisions regarding protection of the party seeking the Domestic Violence Protective Order, such orders can also include provisions regarding custody of any minor children between the parties, and distribution of certain items of property between the parties (on a temporary basis). These issues are more appropriately addressed in Family Court, and so a subsequent action regarding these issues in Family Court can change what is put in place pursuant to a Domestic Violence Protective Order.
If you believe you are in need of a Domestic Violence Protective Order, or if you have been served with a Complaint for a Domestic Violence Protective Order that has been filed against you, it is important to contact an attorney who can help you through this process.