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After a Domestic Dispute: What are Your Options?

No one ever expects domestic violence to happen, but things can get complicated quickly when you are hurt or scared by someone you love or live with. If you’re in North Carolina and law enforcement arrives after you’ve argued with your partner or someone you live with, things may not go the way you expect. The other person may try to blame you for any problems. However, anytime a domestic dispute involves violence, threats, or harassment, this is domestic violence. In this blog post, we’ll explore your options after you experience domestic violence. 

Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone

If you’re in a relationship with someone or live with them and feel like you or your children face danger, you have legal options. In North Carolina, law enforcement may get involved when there is an altercation between two people in a domestic relationship. 

Domestic relationships include spouses, ex-spouses, parents of the same child, children and parents, and people who are currently or formerly cohabitating or dating, etc. It is not limited to adults nor to people in heterosexual relationships. Domestic violence can happen to teens and to people in the LGBTQ+ community as well. 

If you feel unsafe or threatened, don’t hesitate to seek help. Domestic violence is not limited to physically hurting someone else. Domestic violence also includes threats, intimidation, stalking, or harassment.

50B: Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO)

If you have a domestic relationship with someone who scares you, stalks you, has made threats, or intimidated you somehow, you may file a restraining order called a “Domestic Violence Protection Order” (DVPO).

Going to an attorney specializing in DVPO can help your case tremendously. With experience on your side, you have an ally working to help you through the complex judicial system.

However, if you can’t hire an attorney, you can find the instructions for filling out a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) here. You may also go to the clerk’s office in your county to complete and file the forms or refer to this Know Your Rights website for more information. 

Your local domestic violence crisis center can provide a non-lawyer advocate if you have questions about the process and any forms. You can find your local agency here.

Complaint for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (50B)

To get a restraining order, you need to show that the other person:

  • Placed you or your child in fear of “imminent serious bodily injury.”
  • Committed continued harassment by doing at least two wrongful acts with no legitimate purpose causing “substantial emotional distress.”
  • Caused or tried to cause physical injury to you or your child.
  • Sexual assault.

Speaking with an experienced attorney in domestic violence cases can help you see if the other person has acted in a way that meets the legal standard for a restraining order.

When you live with frequent name-calling, threats, and anger directed your way, you may internalize the feelings and believe the violence is your fault. But nothing could be further from the truth.

As a victim of abuse, you may need help to articulate the significant emotional trauma you experience from continued harassment or threats. Talk to a crisis counselor, or DVPO attorney to discuss your partner’s behavior and find the next best steps in your situation.

Talking about what happened can help you see better what is happening now and how to handle the situation you find yourself in.

Tips For Answering Questions

When filling out the forms, you may struggle with what to say. To help the court understand your situation fully:

  • Write detailed answers with times and dates for what has happened whenever possible.
  • Explain what the other person (the defendant) did to hurt you and any children in specific ways with examples.
  • Be truthful even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed. This is not your fault!

When the case goes to the hearing for a permanent order, you will only be able to talk about what you wrote in your original complaint, so it is essential to be thorough. 

Prepare to fill out the forms by keeping a timeline or log and writing down abusive events from your relationship. However your safety is the most important factor so be careful where you leave items like this so that the abusive individual in your life doesn’t find it.

Filing of Complaint

When you finish filling out your complaint for a restraining order, you will file it in your local clerk’s office, and a judge will see you.

The judge will review your paperwork and determine whether to grant you an emergency or “ex parte” restraining order. However, an emergency order can’t hold the abusive person accountable for violating the order until the Sheriff’s office serves them (gives them a copy of the ex parte order). 

You may possess a temporary DVPO order for up to 10 days. Before the end of the 10 days, you will be required to return to court for the judge to determine whether to extend the restraining order for up to a year. Your abusive partner will receive notice of this court date and can choose to appear to tell their side of the story at the scheduled hearing.

Regardless of whether the judge grants the emergency order, they will give you a date to come back within 10 days for the scheduled hearing.

The Hearing

At the scheduled hearing, you may ask that the DVPO order last up to one year. For the best outcome, have an experienced DVPO attorney represent you at the return hearing. Without representation, you may not understand how civil proceedings work.

In addition, DVPO hearings can be emotional and distressing. It may feel challenging to speak about what has happened to you or your children, especially in front of the person hurting you.

You can rely on a knowledgeable trauma-informed attorney at every moment to keep you emotionally safe and act as a buffer between the defendant and you. An attorney can also help you review your statement and collect any witness statements and other evidence that may help. And, with your attorney, you may find the confidence you need to move forward with the restraining order.

After the DVPO Hearing

If you feel like a DVPO is not enough to keep you safe, consider talking with a crisis agency that can help you find a place at a temporary shelter. An abusive person who receives a DVPO is not legally allowed on a crisis center’s property. 

After receiving a DVPO, you may find that you possess many protections you did not have before. The court may order that the person who harmed you:

  • Not contact you directly or indirectly and remain away from you at all times 
  • Not threaten, abuse, follow, assault, or harass you, contact you at work, in person, or any other way.
  • Not interfere with anything related to you or your children.
  • Move out of your shared residence regardless of the name on the lease or mortgage.
  • Stay a fixed distance away from places you or your family frequent such as schools, friend’s homes, a shelter, etc.
  • Not to harm any pets and give you possession of any pets
  • Give you temporary custody of a minor child 
  • Go to a domestic violence treatment program 
  • Turn in firearms and lose the ability to purchase new ones.
  • Ordering any other prohibitions or requirements that the court feels necessary to keep you safe.

One of the most significant protections of a DVPO is that an officer may immediately arrest someone who violates a DVPO. 

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please reach out to one of the many crisis agencies that can help provide support and resources as you seek safety and stability.

Find Help

At Scharff Law, we encourage you to fight for your rights. You have the right to end an abusive relationship. By law, you can choose to protect yourself and any children with a restraining order. And, a Domestic Violence Protective Order (50B) can help you move forward with hope.

However, you may have good reason if you feel afraid to take the next step. Finding someone who will encourage you throughout the process can make all the difference. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do to help.