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What is a Restraining Order?


A restraining order is a broad term for a court order which restrains or limits someone’s actions. This order can include limiting where the person can live or how close they can come near you. Under certain circumstances, it also can prevent someone from owning or purchasing a gun. But what exactly is a restraining order?

In North Carolina, there are three main types of restraining orders you can file against someone who is hurting you:

  • Domestic Violence Protective Order (50B): This order is against someone you’re in a personal relationship with who is hurting you or your child. 
  • Civil No-Contact Order (50C): If you are a victim of stalking or sexual assault and don’t have a personal relationship with the person hurting you (such as having dated them, lived together, or have a child together), then you can apply for a civil no-contact restraining order.
  • Permanent Civil No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender (50D): If a convicted offender committed a sex offense against you, but you did not receive a criminal no-contact order as part of the criminal case, you can file for a 50D

Let’s look at these orders and what they can and can’t do for you and your family.

DVPO: Domestic Violence Protective Order (50B Order)

If you have a personal relationship with someone who hurts you, you may want to explore whether a restraining order (a DVPO/50B) is right for you and your situation. Oftentimes filing for and receiving a DVPO can be an enormously empowering step for you and helps ensure that you have tools to keep you safe from the person hurting you. However, it isn’t the right choice for everyone and it’s helpful to talk through the advantages and disadvantages with an attorney or local domestic violence advocate if you aren’t sure if a restraining order is the right choice for you.

In North Carolina, the law defines domestic violence as having a “personal relationship” with someone who hurts you or your child in the following ways:

  • attempts to cause bodily injury
  • intentionally causes bodily injury
  • places you or your household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
  • continued harassment at such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress
  • commits any rape or sexual offense 

For a DVPO, you must have a “personal relationship” as defined by NC law as:

  • Are current or former spouses
  • Are persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together
  • Related as parents and children, acting as parents to a minor child, or grandparents and grandchildren. An aggrieved party may not obtain an order of protection against a child or grandchild under the age of 16.
  • Have a child in common
  • Are current or former household members
  • Persons of the opposite sex in a dating relationship or having a past dating relationship. A dating relationship is a romantic involvement over time. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.

Although the statute uses “opposite sex” language, our firm has been successful in representing victims who are in a dating relationship with a same-sex partner and haven’t lived together. Therefore, although the language of our statute is still explicitly discriminatory, there is other law in North Carolina that helps for us to be sure that everyone in North Carolina is protected from domestic violence. 

A judge may issue an “ex parte” temporary protective order to provide you and your family with immediate protection from the person causing you harm if they believe there is an immediate danger to you or your children. This ex parte protection lasts until your court date when you request the full DVPO. A DVPO lasts up to one year, but you can request to renew it if needed.

What Does a DVPO (50B) Do For Me?

The primary goal of the DVPO is to restrain the person who harmed you and have a court order in place to keep them away from you. The law outlines many ways that the judge can restrict someone’s actions in order to protect you and give you relief to help you escape from the person harming you.  

Some examples of the relief that a DVPO can provide include ordering that the person who harmed you:

  • Not to 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.
  • Provide suitable temporary housing for you and any children.
  • 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 giving you possession of any pets
  • Give you temporary custody of a minor child and pay child support (if a parent of your 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.

While the hope is that the person who harmed you (the Defendant) will abide by the terms of the order, if they don’t abide by it and violate it, then they can be charged criminally with an A1 misdemeanor or criminal contempt which carries jail time and/or fines.  In some cases, they can even be charged with a felony. 

What is a Civil No-Contact Order (50C)

This type of restraining order in NC is different from the DVPO (50B). It is a separate section of North Carolina Law and is only available:

  • If you do not have a “personal relationship” with the person who hurt you AND 
  • They engaged in stalking or nonconsensual sexual conduct. Stalking includes harassing or following you to cause fear or emotional distress. Nonconsensual sexual behavior consists of any intentional sexual contact that you don’t consent to.

This order protects you from stalking or nonconsensual sexual conduct from a stranger, acquaintance, coworker, neighbor, or any person who isn’t a member of your household or family. 

What Does a Civil No-Contact Order (50C) Do For Me?

A Civil No-Contact order can prevent your the person who harmed you from doing many things, such as 

  • Assaulting, molesting, visiting, or interfering with you
  • Contacting you in letters, email or texts, telephone, or on social media
  • Injuring or abusing you
  • Stalking or harassing you
  • Coming to places you frequent such as your workplace, residence, school, etc.
  • Compromising your safety 

What is a Permanent Civil No-Contact Order (50D)

A 50D order is only available to protect victims of registered sex offenders who did not get a permanent civil no-contact order in the past. It is a lifetime order and if the Defendant violates it, then it is enforceable through a criminal charge. 

Get Help

If someone is hurting you or you are afraid that they have plans to, contact us at Scharff Law. We can help you file the restraining order that you need to keep yourself and your family safe. We specialize in DVPO and restraining orders of all kinds. If you are unsure of your next step and just need to understand your options better, we are here to help you find the way into a safe and healthy environment for you and your children. Do not hesitate to reach out. If you need protection, we want to hear from you.