North Carolina’s laws on domestic violence are contained within N.C. General Statute § 50B, which is in a different section from the laws on custody. You may hear a Domestic Violence Protective Order or a Restraining Order referred to as a “50B.” The term comes from the North Carolina statutes on domestic violence.
In order to meet the legal definition of domestic violence, you must have or have had a personal relationship with the offender, such as a spouse, former spouse, family member, roommate or household member, co-parent or a dating partner of the opposite sex. There is inherent discrimination against same sex couples built into the laws governing domestic violence in North Carolina unless you lived together at some point.
So what is domestic violence? Most people think that you are only abused if you are physically hurt or assaulted by the other person. Although one form of domestic violence, and a very serious form, it is not the only form. In fact, domestic violence (by legal definition) in North Carolina includes: bodily injury; attempting to cause bodily injury; rape; sexual assault; stalking; and continued harassment that rises to the level to inflict substantial emotional distress. It is “continued harassment” that is the most common, most destructive, and hardest to break away from.
What does continued harassment mean according to the North Carolina courts? Generally speaking, it is the situation where your home becomes more of a prison than a place to seek sanctuary. If someone close to you is: cussing, screaming, threatening you or themselves; name calling; forcing everyone to walk on pins and needles; abusing drugs or alcohol; recording you; following you around; texting and calling non-stop; waking you in the middle of the night; destroying property; isolating you from friends, family or finances; making you feel that you are going crazy or that you are the problem; telling you that they will take the children from you; telling you that they will kill themselves, or brandishing guns or other weapons as a joke or as a threat, then you are most likely in an abusive relationship and you need to seek help.
Luckily, across the state of North Carolina, and in most counties, there are domestic violence agencies that are set up to provide free services, such as advice, counseling, housing assistance, and legal services to those in need. North Carolina has a very active non-profit base setup across the state to assist those in need, not limited to Legal Aid. For example, InterAct of Wake County offers services where you can file for a Protective Order on site and video conference with the judge without stepping foot into a courtroom. Wake County has worked very hard to provide easy access to families in trouble.
Unfortunately, not all counties are the same. In fact, every county in North Carolina has its own set of judges, court systems and biases. Your outcome in court will be dependent on where you live and the day that you go to court. Remember that each judge is a person with a different set of experiences that form their opinions about others, and unfortunately, some judges don’t understand domestic violence. This is not to dissuade you from seeking help. If you are in a dangerous or toxic relationship, you should not let these facts deter you from seeking help. Call 911 if you ever truly feel threatened!