When you’re dealing with a troubled relationship, when is it time to say “enough is enough” – and what do you do when you’re ready to throw in the towel?
We all want reason and respect to be included when we try to solve conflicts with our significant others. In some cases, however, the other person aggressively refuses to listen to your needs or respect your boundaries. If this sounds familiar, it might be time to file a restraining order to gain the safety, peace of mind and breathing space you need to plan your next step.
Domestic Abuse and Restraining Orders: The Facts
A North Carolina restraining order is also known as a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) or a “50B order.” In order to file such an order, the other person must fit at least one of the following categories:
- Your spouse or ex-spouse.
- Someone you live with or have lived with in the past.
- The other parent of your child.
- Someone related to you as your parent, child, grandparent or grandchild.
- A member of your household or someone who was previously a member of your household.
- Someone you are dating or have dated in the past.
A DVPO orders the other person to take – or to stop taking or not take – several steps. Common items included in a North Carolina restraining order include:
- An order not to assault, threaten, abuse, follow, harass or interfere with you and your children – not at home, not at work or school, not by telephone or email, or by any other means,
- An order for the other person to leave your home, if they live there, no matter which one of you owns the home or whose name is on the lease, or order the other person to provide a suitable place for you to go instead.
- An order for the other person to stay away from your home, work, your or your children’s school, your friends’ homes or any other place you might seek shelter.
- An order for the other person to fulfill other requirements as needed, like forfeiting a firearm, attending alcohol or substance abuse classes, and pay attorney’s fees.
- Give you possession of personal property, such as your own car and household items, possession of the family pet and temporary custody of your child or children – including temporary child support and visitation if the other person is also the parent of the child.
A restraining order is flexible. It can be adapted to meet your needs and the specifics of your situation in many ways. Your lawyer can help you ensure that your DVPO fully protects you and your children.
Reasons to File a Restraining Order in North Carolina
Among the most common reasons to file a DVPO in North Carolina are:
- The other person has threatened, tried or succeeded in causing bodily injury or substantial emotional distress to you or any member of your family. This category includes sexual offenses like molestation and rape. It also includes threats involving a gun or another deadly weapon.
- The other person has threatened, tried or succeeded in causing bodily injury or substantial emotional distress to your children. Like the category above, this category includes any behavior of a sexual nature toward the children, and threats involving firearms or other deadly weapons.
- The other person has threatened to commit suicide if you do not do what they want.
- You believe the other person may cause serious and immediate injury to you or your children.
Other situations may also warrant the filing of a restraining order in North Carolina. Talk to your lawyer to determine whether you need a DVPO in those situations.
Pets can also be included in a DVPO. If you have a pet in your household, you can ask the judge to include an order for the other person not to harm the pet. You can also ask for custody of the pet, if you are concerned that the other person will try to take the pet from you and/or harm your pet. When you fill out the complaint, include information about the pet and any threats or actions the other person has taken regarding harm to the pet.
How to File a Restraining Order in North Carolina
Generally speaking, there are six steps to filing a restraining order in North Carolina:
Get the forms you need.
The state’s courts provide a form for individuals to use when filing for a DVPO. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts website provides a list of county courthouses, so you can find the one in your district. The clerk of civil court or magistrate’s office can provide the forms you need.
Fill out the forms, but do not sign them (yet).
When you file for a DVPO, you are the plaintiff. The other person is the defendant. Fill out the form, providing clear, concrete details of the abuse you have suffered. For instance, if the defendant attacked you, describe how. Were you slapped, kicked or punched? Did the other person use a weapon or threaten to use one? What words or gestures were used? Give dates. Find a notary public or clerk of court to witness as you sign the forms in this person’s physical presence.
Fill out the summons.
The summons and complaint form are served together by a county sheriff. You will need to include the other person’s name, address and contact information as best you know it on the summons form. You can also provide information that describes your abuser, like their physical characteristics, driver’s license or Social Security number, work address and firearm permit, which will help the sheriff’s office find them if you do not know their address.
Request an ex parte/temporary order.
On the complaint and summons, request an ex parte/temporary order. “Ex parte” means “without the other party.” When you ask for an ex parte order, you can get a restraining order put in place even if the other person fails to show up for a hearing. An ex parte/temporary order is an emergency order that takes place immediately after you speak to a judge. Make copies of this order and give them to every location you or your children typically go – work, school, daycare and similar places.
Attend your hearing.
When you file your complaint and summons, you’ll be given a date and time for your hearing. Attend your hearing with the help of your attorney. You’ll need to demonstrate that the other person has committed an act of domestic violence, as defined by North Carolina law. Your lawyer can help you demonstrate that this has happened.
Extend or renew the order if needed.
A North Carolina DVPO lasts for one year from the date it is granted, but you can get it renewed for up to two years. To renew, follow the first five steps listed here.
At Charles Ullman & Associates, our attorneys focus on family law. We take the time to listen to each client in order to understand your goals, so we can concentrate on obtaining a reasonable result under the law that meets your needs and allows you to build the best possible future.