A majority of women will experience physical abuse at some time in their life, and most likely at the hands of an intimate partner. While not nearly as common, men too can be the victims of domestic violence. While it is easy for us outside of the relationships to say we would leave at the first act of abuse, there are actually strong emotional and psychological forces that keep victims with their abuser. Many victims are economically dependent on the abuser and have been isolated from family members or friends who would be able to provide extra support. There are cultural and religious constraints that may keep these relationships together, the desire to stay together for the children, and hope that the abuser will one day change.
If you are a victim of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse and are ready to take a vital step to leave the relationship, obtaining a restraining order will help protect you during this transition. In North Carolina, the civil restraining order is technically called a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO). To make access to obtaining a DVPO available for all people of different economic backgrounds, there is not a filing fee associated with filing the Complaint against the abuser and there are many organizations across the State that aid victims during this process. Here in Wake County, InterAct is such an organization that provides safety, support, and awareness to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Who Can File for Domestic Violence Protective Order?
Anyone who has a personal or family relationship with the abuse can file for a domestic violence protective order under N.C.G.S. § 50-B. This includes spouses, ex-spouses, persons living together, persons in a dating relationship, or otherwise related by blood or marriage.
What Must You Prove to Get a Domestic Violence Protective Order?
You must be a showing of one or more of the following:
- That the defendant has caused or attempted to cause bodily injury, such as physically contact or even throwing of an object that does not come into contact with your body.
- That the defendant has placed you or a member of your family/household in fear or imminent bodily injury or in fear of continued harassment that rises to such a level to inflict substantial emotional distress. Threats of harm against you, following you, or sending multiple text messages over a short amount of time may support these allegations.
- That the defendant has committed a sexual offense against you.
Possible Relief Awarded by the Court
If one or more of the above are proven, the Court will likely order the defendant not to assault, abuse, or harass you and to remain at least 100 yards away from you, your residence, place of business, etc. If you live with the defendant, the Court can order the defendant to vacate the residence and possibly provide support to you as well to help maintain the residence if you are unable to do so. When children are involved, the Court also has the authority to award temporary custody to the Plaintiff.
When you file the complaint and summons, you may ask the Court for ex parte relief – meaning “without the other party.” Under the §50-b statute, the Court has authority to issue a temporary restraining order based solely on the allegations alleged in the complaint. If the ex parte relief is granted, the Court will set a return date for a hearing typically within 10 days at which time the defendant may be present and have the chance to offer his/her defense.
Having an experienced family law attorney throughout the emotional process of obtaining a Domestic Violence Protective Order will give you an advocate and help guide you through this time of need. This is important for both those seeking a domestic violence protective order and those needing an attorney to defend against false allegations made by a Plaintiff.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law