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National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: North Carolina

UPDATED December 14, 2010

back to topWho can get a domestic violence protective order (DVPO)?

You can seek legal protection from acts of domestic violence done to you or your minor child by someone you have had a "personal relationship" with. This means you can seek protection from:

  • Your spouse, or ex-spouse,
  • A person of the opposite sex with whom you live or used to live,
  • Someone you are related to, including parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren, over the age of 16,
  • Someone with whom you have a child in common,
  • A current or former household member, or
  • Someone of the opposite sex whom you are dating or have dated.

A dating relationship is one where you are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.*

Under the legal definition, you may seek protection from a same-sex partner who has been a household member of yours. However, judges do not always rule consistently in these cases. Please talk to someone at a local domestic violence organization for help determining how a judge is likely to rule and for help presenting your case to the judge. See NC State and Local Programs to find someone who can help.

Teens under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian to file for a protection order on their behalf.  For more information, speak to a local domestic violence organization.

If you have not had a "personal relationship" with your abuser, harasser or stalker, you may be eligible for a protective order against stalking or harassment.** Please see How can I get an order against stalking or sexual harassment?

*NCGS § 50B-1(b)
** NCGS § 50C-1

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back to topCan I get a DVPO against a same-sex partner?

Yes, if you are living with or have lived with your partner in the past (legally called “household member”). While people in heterosexual relationships can get a DVPO regardless if they are living together or in a dating relationship, same-sex couples must be living together or have lived together in the past to get the same protection. However, judges do not always rule consistently in these cases.

You should check with a local domestic violence organization for information about what a judge in your area is likely to do. There may also be other legal options for you as well. To find help in your state, please click on the NC Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

See Who can get a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO)? for more information on how NC law defines who is eligible for a DVPO.

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back to topHow much does it cost?

Nothing. There are no fees for filing for a domestic violence protective order.*

* NCGS § 50B-2(a)

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back to topDo I need an attorney?

No, you do not need an attorney to file for a DVPO or to get an ex parte order.*  You also do not need an attorney at the full court hearing, but you may want one, especially if you think the defendant (abuser) will have one.  It is recommended that you contact an attorney to make sure that your legal rights are protected. You can get free legal assistance if you contact one of the domestic violence organizations in your area. You may request that an advocate accompany you to court. (See NC Where to Find Help to find an organization in your area.)

You can also get the forms you need from the clerk of superior court in your county.

* NCGS § 50B-2(a)

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back to topWhat if I have to miss work to get a DVPO?

If you have to miss work for a reasonable time to file and attend hearings for a DVPO, your employer may not fire you, demote you (give you a lower position or rank), deny you a promotion or discipline you as an employee.

You must follow your employer's usual time-off policy, including advance notice to the employer if that is generally required, unless an emergency prevents you from doing so.

Your employer may require documentation of an emergency that prevented you from following your employer's policy regarding giving advance notice. S/he may also ask for any other information or documentation available to you which supports your reason for being absent.*

*NCGS § 50B-5.5

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back to topWhat if I don't qualify for a DVPO or if my order is not granted?

If you do not qualify for a DVPO or if your order is not granted, you can still seek protection from the law and assistance from domestic violence organizations.

If you do not qualify for a DVPO because you do not have a "personal relationship" with a person who has stalked or sexually harrased you, you can file for a civil no-contact order.*

Also, assault, stalking and harassment are against the law. Specific crimes that abusers commonly commit are listed below. If one of these crimes is being committed against you, you can report it to law enforcement. If charges are pressed against the person who has done these things, a judge may be able to order him/her to stay away from you. 

The following are common crimes that abusers commit against their intimate partners. They are all misdemeanor crimes. The maximum punishment is 150 days in jail for defendants who fall within the highest prior record level for criminal convictions. Stalking and violation of a DVPO may be felonies if certain criteria are met.

  • Assault on a Female
  • Communicating Threats
  • Assault by Pointing a Gun
  • Domestic Criminal Trespass
  • Harassing Phone Calls
  • Injury to Pregnant Woman
  • Injury to Personal Property
  • Assault Inflicting Serious Injury
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • Stalking
  • Interference with Emergency Communication
  • Violation of a Protective Order
  • Assault in the Presence of a Child
  • Sexual Battery

These are felony crimes sometimes committed by abusers:

  • Rape
  • Sexual offenses
  • Non-fatal strangulation**

You may also want to visit our Staying Safe page for ways to increase your safety.

If you are being stalked or harassed, go to the Stalking Resource Center website for more information on stalking and harassment laws, as well safety planning information.

DVPOs also do not cover many types of emotional or mental abuse. If you're being mentally or emotionally abused, please contact a domestic violence organization in your area. They can help you figure out your options, help you stay safe, and offer you support (NC State and Local Programs under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page).

*NCGS § 50C
**NCGS § 14

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