A Domestic Violence Protective Order (sometimes referred to as a “restraining order”, a “50B order” or “DVPO”) is a legal document issued by a court to protect victims of domestic violence from their abusers. It is designed to provide victims with the safety they need and to prevent further abuse.
1.To file for a DVPO, you must have a “personal relationship” with the other party. There are certain categories of relationships that qualify as a personal relationship for the purpose of filing a DVPO:
- current or former spouses;
- persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
- a person with whom you have a child;
- a person of the opposite sex with whom you have had a dating relationship;
- current or former household members: a parent, child, grandparent, or grandchild.
2.There are no court costs to file for a DVPO. Anyone living in North Carolina, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, can file for a DVPO.
3.The judge granting a DVPO has a number of options they can include in order to protect the victim. The most common are:
- Prohibiting the abuser from having any contact with the victim or their minor children;
- Allowing the victim to remain in the household and ordering the abuser to immediately move out of the house;
- Ordering the abuser to stop harassing, following, or threatening the victim;
- Giving the victim possession of personal property, such as a car, and only allowing the abuser to take their personal property when leaving the household;
- Ordering the abuser to stay away from places requested in the victim’s complaint, such as the victim’s job or their children’s school;
- Granting the victim temporary custody of minor children and ordering the abuser to pay child support.
4.The judge makes a decision based on the facts presented in the complaint. This initial step is most commonly handled “ex parte” where the alleged abuser is not present in the courtroom. The ruling from the Judge’s review of the Complaint – whether granted or denied – is then served on the opposing party by the Sheriff. Any Order that the Judge signs at this “ex-parte” hearing is only temporary.
5.A court date for your “return hearing” within 10 days is included in the Order entered by the court, where both parties are required to appear and present his/her position on the alleged events that led to the filing for a DVPO. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney prior to the hearing, to be advised as to your rights, and to ensure that you are prepared to proceed at that hearing. At the conclusion of this hearing, the Judge may enter a DVPO that typically will last one year.
6.Hiring an experienced family law attorney to represent you at the DVPO hearing is important. DVPO matters are extremely emotional and stressful, and having an attorney to help you navigate the process is helpful.
7.If you need to renew a DVPO, it is very important to file a Motion to Renew before the current DVPO expires. It is recommended filing the motion approximately one month before your current DVPO expires. When the judge hears a Motion to Renew a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), they can find good cause for renewal, even if the opposing party did not violate the DVPO or commit any additional acts of domestic violence. A DVPO can be renewed for a period of up to two years.
8.There is no limit on the number of times you can renew a DVPO, so long as a judge finds there is good cause. However, if the order expires before you file a motion to renew, the DVPO will no longer be in effect.
9.Parties can consent to enter a DVPO without findings of fact and conclusions of law (meaning, there are no details in the order). Entering into a consent DVPO can be beneficial for both parties in the following ways:
- Allows the parties to create orders that will best meet their specific needs;
- Allows the parties to avoid stress and uncertainty of a trial;
- Allows for the details of the domestic violence to be hidden from the public.
10.Make sure that you are fully informed of your rights before filing a DVPO. It is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney about whether or not entering into a consent DVPO is the best option for your case. For example, if a DVPO filing is not granted, it may cause harm to an on-going custody case. There may be other ways to protect the victim and your attorney can help you navigate the pros and cons.
It is extremely helpful to have an attorney representing you in a DVPO action. An experienced attorney can provide valuable advice and guidance throughout the process, and help you understand all of your options and rights. Be sure that you are making an informed decision.