Domestic violence is a serious matter, and it rarely looks like what you see in most movies and TV shows. The abuse often starts small and gets worse as the abuser exerts more and more control over the victim’s life. Victims often feel trapped in their situations for reasons like concern over their children’s well-being, lack of access to money and other resources, and the fear of worse abuse and violence if they try to leave.
No matter how bad your situation has gotten, there is a way out, and an experienced lawyer can help you take the first step.
In this article, we’ll discuss how North Carolina law treats domestic violence and explain how an attorney can help if you or someone you love is suffering due to domestic violence.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in North Carolina?
Domestic violence is a criminal act that carries serious consequences. Accusations and charges of domestic violence can ruin a person’s career and relationships and take away their freedom, which is why every allegation of domestic violence needs to be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.
Advocacy organizations for victims of domestic violence have raised awareness about the various types of abuse that often accompany physical violence or the threat of it, and victims now have more resources than ever.
However, one effect of this increased awareness is that people sometimes equate acts like verbal abuse and financial abuse (taking over the victim’s finances to exert control) with domestic violence. These types of abuse often accompany domestic violence and can inflict plenty of harm. However, verbal abuse and other controlling behaviors, by themselves, don’t necessarily meet the definition of domestic violence under North Carolina law.
According to the laws in North Carolina, domestic violence occurs when someone has a personal relationship with another person and commits any of the following acts against that person or their child:
- Intentionally causing bodily injury or attempting to do so
- Committing any sexual offense, including rape
- Threatening serious bodily harm or creating the fear of such harm
- Engaging in harassment to the point that it causes substantial emotional distress
It’s important to note that while North Carolina’s definition of domestic violence centers around acts of physical violence, non-physical acts can meet the definition too, especially if they create a substantial threat or fear of physical violence.
Domestic violence requires the existence of a personal relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. North Carolina considers a relationship personal when the people involved:
- Are current or former spouses
- Are currently in a romantic relationship or were in the past
- Currently live together or did in the past
- Are related as parent and child or as grandparent and grandchild
- Have a child in common
- Are members of the same household or were at one time
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What Can a Lawyer Do to Help Domestic Violence Victims?
If you’re not sure whether what you’re going through is considered domestic violence according to the law, that’s understandable. The law can be confusing, which is why you should contact an experienced domestic violence attorney for confidential advice about your unique situation and your legal options. A good attorney will take any domestic violence allegation seriously, and they’ll listen to your story without judging you or exposing you to more risk.
While you can attempt to represent yourself in a domestic violence case, the legal process is complicated and requires years of study to understand. If you make a mistake or forget to include something important and your petition gets denied, your partner or spouse will most likely find out what happened, and you won’t have a court order protecting you from them.
If you file a complaint for domestic violence, you can benefit from powerful legal protections.
- Get an Emergency Protection Order in Place
Victims of domestic violence can file a Complaint for a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), which is also commonly called a restraining order. A DVPO can prohibit an abuser from contacting you, coming within a certain distance of you, sharing a home with you, and possessing firearms.
- Get an Ex Parte Temporary Order
You can also request an “ex parte” temporary order. This order occurs before the alleged abuser is served with the lawsuit, which means you provide testimony to a magistrate or judge without the alleged abuser being present. This order is only valid for up to 10 days. Someone will need to serve the alleged abuser with the complaint and the ex parte order (usually the sheriff will handle this).
- One-Year Protective Order
Emergency protection orders only last for a maximum of 10 days. Within the 10 days, the court will schedule a hearing for a one-year protective order. If the alleged abuser has been served with the lawsuit, they may appear at the hearing. At this hearing, both sides can present evidence and be heard by the judge. If the judge agrees that domestic violence occurred, they’ll enter a one-year protective order.
- File for Custody or Financial Support
If the perpetrator is your spouse, a domestic violence attorney can help you start the divorce process, which will include addressing related legal matters like your right to spousal support, your share of marital property, and child custody.
- File an Injury Lawsuit
A lawsuit for assault or personal injury can help you recover financial compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial losses that an abuser caused through domestic violence.
What the Domestic Violence Petition Process Looks Like in North Carolina
Most of the time, victims file domestic violence complaints after a violent incident and without an attorney. However, you can work with an attorney to file a complaint. In general, you can expect the process to unfold as follows:
1. You’ll file a domestic violence complaint and receive a hearing in front of a magistrate or judge without the other party present.
2. If the judge finds that domestic violence has occurred, they will issue a temporary protection order.
3. The court will schedule a hearing within 10 days and the alleged abuser will be served.
4. At the 10-day hearing, the alleged abuser may appear. The judge will hear evidence from you and the alleged abuser. If the judge finds that you have proven your case, they’ll enter a protective order that lasts for one year.
5. Meanwhile, you and your attorney will begin to work on any other legal matters, like divorce or a domestic violence lawsuit.
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Additional Resources for Domestic Violence Victims
If you or someone you love is suffering because of domestic violence in or around Charlotte, North Carolina, don’t wait any longer to get help — contact Myers Law Firm. We’ll listen to your story with compassion while moving with the urgency and aggressiveness required to make sure you and your children get into a safe and stable situation.
If you’re not ready to contact a lawyer, other resources may be able to provide some assistance. If someone has subjected you to physical violence or threats of violence, you should call the police immediately. However, if you’re not prepared to take that step, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website for additional resources. In addition, the North Carolina Department of Justice hosts a library of online resources for domestic violence victims and their loved ones.
Myers Law Firm: Advocates for Domestic Violence Victims in Charlotte and Throughout Mecklenburg County
If you’ve been the victim of domestic violence, it’s very important to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible so you can protect yourself, your children, and your loved ones from further harm. At Myers Law Firm, our attorneys have experience helping victims of domestic violence in Mecklenburg County, and we can listen to your story, explain your rights, and discuss your legal options, including the option to file for an injunction that can put a stop to abuse immediately.
For more information about how our experienced family law attorneys can help you, schedule your initial consultation by filling out our convenient online contact form or calling our Charlotte office toll-free at (888) 376-ATTY (2889).
Domestic violence. N.C. Stat. § 50B-1. Retrieved from