What is the legal definition of Domestic Violence in North Carolina?
Under N.C. Gen. Stat. 50B-1, domestic violence means “the commission of one or more of the following acts upon an aggrieved party or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of the aggrieved party by a person with whom the aggrieved party has or has had a personal relationship, but does not include acts of self‑defense: (1) Attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury; or (2) Placing the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, as defined in G.S. 14‑277.3A, that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.”
What does that mean?
First, it means that you can only seek a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) against someone you have a “personal relationship” with. This includes a spouse, former spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, parent, child, or any person of the opposite sex who you either live with or have lived with.
Secondly, it means that you must prove in court that this individual caused you bodily harm (or attempted to do so), or that they have threatened/ harassed you so much as to inflict substantial emotional distress.
Where do I file an action for a DVPO?
With the Clerk of Court for the county in which you reside.
What happens after I file my request with the Clerk of Court?
You will appear before a District Court Judge “ex parte,” meaning without the defendant (your alleged abuser) getting notice of the hearing or an opportunity to be present in court. During this ex parte hearing, the judge will decide whether to put into place a temporary protective order. Assuming your request is granted by the court, the judge will put into place a temporary order that will prevent your alleged abuser from having any contact with you (or any minor children included in the order) for a period of no more than 10 days. The judge will schedule a full hearing within this 10 day period. Please be aware that, at this hearing, the defendant has the right to retain an attorney and present evidence.
What kind of evidence can I present at the full hearing?
Assuming you do not have an attorney to prepare the case for trial, you should gather all of your evidence and witnesses prior to your 10-day hearing. The District Court Judge assigned to your case will decide which evidence is admissible; however, the following types of evidence are particularly useful in securing your DVPO:
- Witnesses who have observed the defendant physically or verbally abuse you
- Voice mails, text messages, emails, or social media communications in which the defendant has threatened or harassed you
- Photographs, taken by a witness who can testify at the hearing, of any injuries you have received from the defendant’s abusive conduct