When is Ex Parte Communication Proper?

In Child Custody, Domestic Violence by Elizabeth Stephenson

If you are involved in a lawsuit for the first time or you are trying to learn about how the legal process works, there are many terms and phrases that you will hear that sound completely foreign. This is because they literally are. The American legal system has adopted many legal concepts that are actually ancient or derived from other countries’ legal systems. For example, Jurisdiction is Latin for “to speak the law”, and Voir Dire is French for “to see to speak”.

The term “ex parte” is Latin for “by one side” or “by one party”. In the context of the law, ex parte hearings are hearings that occur without the presence of all of the parties to a lawsuit. Unless explicitly allowed under the law, ex parte communication with a court is improper as it violates a person’s constitutional rights of notice and the right to be heard. In the context of family law cases, the only time that North Carolina law allows for ex parte orders are in times of emergency.

Domestic Violence Ex Parte Order

The North Carolina General Statutes 50B-2 provide the legal mechanism in which it is proper for a court to enter an order on an ex parte basis. Specifically, prior to obtaining a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) or child custody order, the trial court has the authority to enter orders “as it deems necessary to protect the aggrieved party or a minor child” if “there is a danger of acts of domestic violence against the aggrieved party or a minor child.”

Ex Parte Child Custody Order

Regarding child custody, there is a limited circumstance in which one parent can obtain an order ex parte. The court must find that the child is “exposed to a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury or sexual abuse.” The ex parte order may contain a “stay away” order or an order to return the child to the care of a parent based on the child’s best interest and that the order is “necessary for the safety” of the child. A full hearing must be held within 10 days or the entry of the ex parte order or seven days from when the other party was served. Further, a parent can seek an ex parte order pro se (without an attorney), or with an attorney.

Contact New Direction Family Law

If you are in an emergency situation and need to protect yourself and your children, contact your local domestic violence center. Further, if you need legal assistance, contact New Direction Family Law. There are numerous emergency orders that can be obtained, in combination with smart safety planning. Domestic violence is volatile and dangerous and it is critical to plan wisely and to seek help. Let us assist you. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 or visit us at our website.