Domestic violence is the attempt to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury upon an individual or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of that individual by a person with whom that individual has or has had a personal relationship. The definition of domestic violence also includes placing the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment.
In North Carolina, examples of a “personal relationship” include current or former spouses, persons of the opposite sex who have or currently live together, individuals of the opposite sex who are or who have been in a “dating relationship”, current or former household members, etc. It is important to note, although it has not been litigated in North Carolina, the “current or former spouses’ category” should apply to both same sex and opposite sex couples.
Obtaining a protective order in North Carolina due to domestic violence is called a 50(b) action. Any action for a domestic violence protective order requires that a summons be issued and served. The defendant must answer the summons within ten days of the date of service.
Prior to the date of hearing, if there is evidence for the court to determine that there is a danger of domestic violence against the victim or a minor child, the court can enter an order ex parte as it deems necessary. An ex parte decision is one decided by a judge without requiring all parties to the dispute to be present. If an ex parte order is issued, a hearing shall be held within ten days from the date of issuance of the order or within seven days from the date of service of process on the other party, whichever occurs later.
When the case is formally heard and both parties are present and the court determines that an act of domestic violence has occurred, the court shall grant a protective order restraining the defendant from further acts of domestic violence. A protective order may grant one party possession of the residence and exclude the other party from the residence, award attorney fees to either party, prohibit a party from purchasing a firearm for a fixed time, order the party responsible for acts of domestic violence to attend and complete an abuser treatment program, order a party to refrain from threatening, abusing or following another party, etc.
In North Carolina, there are also civil no contact orders that are intended to protect victims of unlawful harassment or unwanted sexual contact whose relationship with the aggressor does not qualify under the relationships outlined for a 50B domestic violence action. An action for a civil no-contact order is called a 50C and under this form of relief a court may grant no contact with the victim at the victim’s workplace, home, no contact by telephone, written communication and electronic means, etc.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please do not delay in getting help. Your life can depend on it- immediately consult an attorney to determine what protections you are entitled to under North Carolina law.