Domestic Violence in North Carolina
Domestic violence is very personal and something that if you are dealing with - you wish you weren't. It is embarrassing, scary, confusing and usually unmanageable over time. Despite the fact, that you may think you are hiding it well, it is likely that your children, your family, and those around you already know what is going on. It is important that you seek help and you seek help soon, as domestic violence has devastating long-term consequences on everyone around you, especially your children. Unfortunately domestic violence usually leaves the victim without financial resources, making getting any kind of help, and especially legal help nearly impossible. Although I am an attorney, I am also a survivor of domestic violence. On this page, I try to offer free resources to others to help them empower themselves and break the cycle of abuse. I also offer reduced rates, which can be found on my services & fees page for domestic violence legal proceedings. You must first educate yourself on the various types of domestic violence and how it has been affecting you so that you will know how to fight back. You will need to find what resources are available to you and reach out to others. Surround yourself with a good supportive network (including family and friends). Find an attorney who understands domestic violence and who can relate to you. Then you need to take action.
HOW TO FILE FOR A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER
Complete the following forms before going to the courthouse for faster service:
4. Ex Parte Order;
5. Civil Summons DV;
Complete copies of all forms before you go to court. The domestic violence office at the courthouse will make free copies for you. If you are in Wake County, go to the 5th floor of the civil district courthouse and go to the "domestic violence" section of the clerk's office. If you cannot print these forms before going, they will provide them for you. They will also provide a notary, they will make free photocopies, and there is NO CHARGE for filing. I recommend going between the hours of 1:00pm to 2:00pm as you are likely to see the judge immediately. If you go in the morning, you will likely have to come back in the afternoon and if you go after 4:00pm, you will likely get bumped to the next day. Children are not allowed in the courtroom so bring someone to help with children or leave them with someone you can trust. These general rules apply to all county courts, not just Wake County. The clerk's office will help you a lot!
What Happens Once I File? When you file the paperwork the first time, you will be seen by the judge "Ex Parte" meaning without the defendant or the alleged abuser being present. The judge will decide to either grant you a temporary restraining order or not. If granted, you will be scheduled to return within ten (10) days for a full hearing. At this hearing, the defendant is entitled to be present and may or may not have an attorney, so you need to be prepared for that. Come with as many witnesses and as much evidence as you can.
What is Good Evidence?
Pictures of abuse (broken items, damaged property, pictures of bruises, cuts, etc);
Phone, text, cell phone records and logs;
Witnesses who can testify to what they have seen firsthand;
Anything written by the defendant that shows abuse - letters, cards, e-mails, facebook posts;
Police reports and if you can the responding police officer's report;
Medical records and/or receipts for bandages, crutches, medicine, etc. as a result of abuse.
Other Resources Here
What is Domestic Violence According to the Court? N.C. General Statute, § 50B‑1. Domestic violence; definition. (a) 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.
When you file your Complaint you need to start with the most recent incident and then go backwards. Don't rehash 15 years of abuse in one page. You can use past abuse to support your current allegations of abuse, but the court wants to know WHY ARE YOU IN DANGER NOW! If the incident occurred three months ago, you are going to have a harder challenge because you waited for so long. Also, distinguish between domestic abuse vs. domestic violence. If your partner nags you all the time and calls you names, but you don't fear him or her, then that is likely going to be seen as domestic abuse and not violence. You need to communicate to the court your level or FEAR because of the actions of your partner. Make sure to include your children, if you want them covered under the protective order and how they have witnessed the abuse and how they have been affected. Make an outline on a separate piece of paper and include it as an attachment to your Complaint or use it as a guide so that you don't forget any important facts when you are drafting your Complaint. Stay strong and good luck!