Children and Domestic Violence
Living with someone who abuses you and your children is day-to-day survival. It can be difficult to even think about getting out of your situation, much less act. Your heart and health are on the line, yet it is hard to see the path forward. Whether you’ve dealt with the problem for days or years, you and your children have a right to live your lives without the threat of constant abuse. In North Carolina, the court system realizes that children and domestic violence do not go together.
What Can You Do?
You may have questions about filing for a restraining order. What can law enforcement do if the abuser breaks the order? You may wonder if you should contact the police or if what is happening in your home is, in actuality, domestic violence. And some days, you may rather live like everything is okay and just hope for the best.
One of your options is to apply for a domestic violence protective order. If the court agrees that domestic violence has occurred, the judge will grant a domestic violence protective order, commonly known as a DVPO.
What Is a DVPO?
A DVPO is different from a general restraining order because it allows a judge to order more specific forms of protection. But most importantly, a DVPO grants law enforcement the power to charge the defendant criminally if they violate the order.
Because the abusive individual most likely does not want to spend time in jail, they may take this type of order more seriously than you trying to enforce a separation on your own.
A violation of the DVPO is an A1 misdemeanor. This type of misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor crime in NC. In some circumstances, a violation of a DVPO is even a felony.
What are the Effects of a DVPO on My Child?
This type of order has many immediate effects on your situation that can help keep your children safe. For example, when the court considers custody or visitation, they consider the reports you’ve made of domestic abuse. When the decision is made about custody during the time the restraining order is in place, the court will look at your reports.
The court considers many factors in domestic violence cases when considering child custody, including:
- Substantial risk to the child of physical or emotional injury or sexual abuse.
- Whether the child was present during acts of domestic violence.
- If the abuser used a weapon to commit acts of domestic violence.
- If the abuser threatened to use a weapon for domestic violence.
- Whether the abusive individual caused (or tried to cause) serious injury to you or your child.
- If the abuser placed you or your child in fear of imminent serious injury.
- Whether an abuser forced sexual relations or used threats or duress to have sexual relations with you.
- If there is a pattern of abuse against you or your child.
- Whether the individual has abused or endangered the child during visitation.
- If an abusive person has used visitation as an opportunity to abuse or harass you.
- If the abuser has improperly hidden or kept the minor child from you.
- Whether an abuser has acted in a manner that is not in your child’s best interest.
When the court makes a decision, they also consider whether visitation is in your child’s best interest if they rule in your favor. You can achieve the best possible outcome for your situation by hiring an attorney specializing in DVPO filings and hearings. The best-case scenario is for child custody rulings to keep you and your children safe.
Court Orders for Child Visitation
In North Carolina, no court wants to send a child to visit an abusive parent or guardian. The judge or magistrate is responsible for providing legal help to keep your child safe and protected. The court in a DVPO case is also responsible for and mindful of a need to protect you.
If the court chooses to allow visitation, this concession often comes with carefully thought-out supervision or safety measures to keep you and your child safe. These plans to keep safety top of mind can include any of these provisions:
- Court-mandated protected setting for the exchange
- Specified third person present at the exchange
- A supervising presence during the entire visit. An individual or agency approved by the court may fill this supervisory role.
Domestic Violence Abuse Treatment Programs
The court may also rule that the abusive parent attends and finishes a treatment program as a condition of visitations with the child. According to The NC Domestic Violence Intervention Program Guidelines, “Approaches used in batterer programs hold offenders solely responsible for their acts and prioritize victim safety in every aspect of the program. Programs designed to stop battering begin with, and continually focus on, the thesis that, ‘The vast majority of [people] who batter are not psychologically disturbed in the conventional sense… Their abuse is related to cultural, social, and political practices.’ (Gondolf, 1985).”
Alcohol and Domestic Violence
In some situations, the court may rule that parents refrain from alcoholic beverages for 24 hours before a visitation exchange and during any visitation with the child.
The reason for this restriction is simple. Statistics bear out that alcohol goes hand in hand with domestic violence. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that roughly 55% of domestic abuse perpetrators were drinking alcohol before an assault. These protective measures help keep you and your child safe from domestic violence.
We Can Help
Whether you need help filling your DVPO, direction about whether a DVPO is best for your situation, or you need representation for your hearing, we are here to help. At Scharff Law Firm, our Domestic Violence Protection Attorneys focus on DVPO filings and work to keep the vulnerable safe from those who batter and abuse.
We are active in the domestic violence prevention community. Anyone in a personal relationship can find themselves a victim of domestic violence. We fight for North Carolina law to protect ALL who face abuse. Our work is to help amplify the voices of survivors.