Domestic violence is a devastating problem that touches all socioeconomic groups in our country. It can affect men, women and children, and often destroys families. It is a costly problem as well, with medical and insurance costs alone estimated at $3 billion to $5 billion annually. No group is immune to it. Victims of domestic abuse come from all walks of life, all races, all educational backgrounds and all income levels.
Statistics also show that one out of every four women in this country will become a victim of domestic violence. Other statistics show that almost half of the women murdered in the United States are killed by current or former spouses or partners. While most of the research and media attention has focused on violence against women, men are often victims of domestic violence, and it is important to remember that North Carolina’s domestic laws are intended to protect men, women, and children.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, get help immediately. You should call 911 if you find yourself in an emergency or dangerous situation. Contact our office or visit InterAct at www.interactofwake.org to learn more about how you can protect yourself from domestic violence.
If you are committing domestic violence against your spouse, former spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or your children, seek professional help immediately so that you can become a better spouse, partner or parent to your child.
Frequently asked questions
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence includes attempting to cause or intentionally causing bodily injury or placing a person in fear of “imminent serious bodily injury” or continued harassment which causes substantial emotional distress. North Carolina law describes harassment as conduct, including written or printed communication or transmission, telephone or cellular or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, pager messages or transmissions, answering machine or voice mail messages or transmissions, and electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions, directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose.
What is a “50B” Protective Order?
A Domestic Violence Protective Order is often referred to a “50B” Protective Order, as the Domestic Violence Statute is Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes. The purpose of a Domestic Violence Protective Order is to provide the victim of domestic violence with protection.
How do I request a 50B Protective Order?
You may call our office and schedule an appointment to meet with an attorney who can advise you about obtaining a 50B Protective Order in your case, as well as the possibility of having a lawyer from our firm accompany you to the courthouse to request a protective order. If you reside in Wake County and wish to obtain a protective order on your own without the advice of legal counsel, you can file a claim for domestic violence pro se (on your own without an attorney). You can obtain the necessary forms from the Wake County Clerk of Court’s Office. The clerk will provide you with the proper paperwork and notify you of when you may appear before the judge to request a protective order. There is no filing fee to file a domestic violence action. In Wake County, domestic violence actions are heard in a special courtroom devoted exclusively to domestic violence issues. Because of the complexity of the law and other issues that may be critical to your case, we strongly encourage all victims of domestic violence to consult with an attorney about their particular situation to determine the best course of action for them.
I need help now. Can I get a protective order immediately?
Yes, you can get an “ex parte” 50B protective order very quickly if a judge or magistrate determines that you or your minor child(ren) are clearly in danger and a Domestic Violence Protective Order is necessary to protect you. A judge or magistrate can issue this type of order “ex parte,” without the alleged abuser receiving notice or even hearing his/her side of the story. Since the alleged abuser is not given the opportunity to present his/her side of the story, this ex parte protective order is only a temporary measure and is only good for up to ten days. A full hearing on your claim for domestic violence will be scheduled before the ex parte order expires so that both sides can present their case to the judge. When an ex parte order is entered, the courtroom clerk sets a date for the return hearing and issues a Notice of Hearing. The clerk also effects service of the summons, complaint, notice, order and other papers through the appropriate law enforcement agency where the defendant is to be served. At the return hearing, the judge may issue a 50B protective order for a period up to one year or the judge may dismiss the action.
What relief will the 50B Protective Order give me?
This will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of your situation. If the judge hearing your case decides that domestic violence has occurred, the judge can enter a protective order directing the defendant to refrain from committing acts of domestic violence. The protective order can also grant the following relief:
- Grant the victim possession of the residence or household of the parties and exclude the other party from the residence or household.
- Require the abuser to provide his/her spouse and/or children suitable alternate housing.
- Award temporary custody of minor children and establish temporary visitation rights.
- Order the eviction of the abuser from the residence or household and provide assistance to the victim in returning to the residence.
- Order either party to make payments for the temporary support of a minor child as required by law.
- Order either party to make payments for the temporary support of a spouse as required by law.
- Award possession of personal property of the parties, including motor vehicles.
- Order an abuser to refrain from threatening, abusing, or following the other party; harassing the other party, including by telephone, visiting the home or workplace, or other means; or otherwise interfering with the other party.
- Award attorney’s fees to either party.
- Prohibit a party from purchasing a firearm for a time fixed in the order.
- Order any party the court finds is responsible for acts of domestic violence to attend and complete an abuser treatment program if the program is approved by the Domestic Violence Commission.
- Include any additional prohibitions or requirements the court deems necessary to protect any party or any minor child.
The judge has broad discretion to help the victims under the domestic violence statute, and the purpose of the statute is to protect victims and their children from domestic violence. DO NOT USE OR RELY ON THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATUTE TO DECIDE A CUSTODY DISPUTE OR PROVIDE FOR ONGOING CHILD SUPPORT OR SPOUSAL SUPPORT. THIS IS NOT THE PURPOSE OF THE STATUTE. A JUDGE MAY OR MAY NOT DECIDE TO ADDRESS ANY OF THESE ISSUES IN A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDER, AND EVEN IF THE JUDGE DOES, THE SUPPORT OR TEMPORARY CUSTODY PROVISIONS IN THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDER ARE ONLY TEMPORARY. YOU MUST FILE CLAIMS FOR SPOUSAL SUPPORT, CHILD SUPPORT, AND CUSTODY AS ALLOWED UNDER CHAPTER 50 OF THE NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL STATUTES IN A SEPARATE ACTION.
After I get the protective order, can I call the police if my partner ignores it?
Once a protective order is issued, the police have the authority to carry out and enforce the order. The protective order can be enforced by the courts of any state, the District of Columbia, any U.S. territory, and may be enforced by Tribal Lands. If the defendant violates any provision of the order, you may call a law enforcement officer or go to a magistrate to charge the defendant with the crime of violating a protective order. You may also go to the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the protective order was issued and ask to fill out form AOC-CV-307: Motion for Order to Show Cause Domestic Violence Protection Order, to have an order issued for the defendant to appear before a district court judge to be held in contempt for violating the order.
My abusive partner won’t move out of our home. Can this order help me?
Yes, a judge can order your partner to leave the home immediately and stay away from your house and your family if the judge determines that it will help protect you or your children from further abuse. Local law enforcement can serve your partner with the domestic violence protective order, notify your partner that he/she can no longer reside in your home and escort your partner from your home.
I am afraid of being destitute. Who else can help?
There are many resources in our community dedicated to your safety and protection. For instance, InterAct provides free, round-the-clock counseling, shelter and domestic violence prevention programs for adults and children. The phone number is 919.828.7740. Also, there are many more service providers who are devoted to this cause. We will gladly give you additional information.
Who can help me if I have committed domestic violence against my partner or children?
Many service providers have successfully rehabilitated people who have committed acts of domestic violence. Stop your violent behavior and seek help immediately. Organizations such as the United Way of the Greater Triangle can direct you to programs or specialists who are trained in counseling. The phone number is 800.831.1754. Also, our office may help you find confidential treatment in the Triangle area.
My partner had a protective order entered against me, but we have since reconciled. Can I still be arrested or held in contempt for violating the provisions of the protective order if my partner has told me that she gives me permission to come to her house and call her?
YES! Your partner cannot give you permission to ignore any portion of the protective order. Only the court can modify the provisions of the protective order.
Could a history of domestic violence affect my divorce?
Yes, a history of domestic violence can definitely affect your rights. Domestic violence during the marriage is one of several factors considered marital misconduct that can be considered by a judge when deciding the amount and duration of spousal support. If children have been exposed to domestic violence, this can also affect a judge’s ruling in a custody proceeding. We recommend you seek the advice of a family law attorney to learn more about your rights under the law.
I have a 50B Order and would like to change my name, but I fear that my ex will find out my address from the publication requirement at the courthouse. Do I have to post my information?
You must provide your address and personal information to the court; however, if you notify the court that you have been the victim of domestic violence, the court will waive the publication requirement and will make all records related to your name change proceeding confidential.
My Domestic Violence Protective Order is about to expire and I am fearful that my spouse will harm me once the order expires. What can I do?
You may file a motion requesting the court renew the protective order. You must file the motion before the expiration of your current Domestic Violence Protective Order. A hearing on your motion will be scheduled and at the hearing, the court will decide whether to renew your protective order for a fixed period of time not to exceed two years. The court may renew a protective order on good cause. You should be aware that any temporary custody provisions regarding minor children contained in your protective order will not be renewed.