Know the Laws: North Carolina
UPDATED December 14, 2010
A domestic violence protection order is a civil order that provides protection from someone who you have/had a "personal relationship" with.
During business hours, go to the clerk of civil court; otherwise, go to the magistrate's office. Tell the clerk or the magistrate that you want to file for a domestic violence protective order (a "DVPO"). If you need the emergency protection of an ex parte/temporary order, also tell the clerk you need an ex parte order. (To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on NC Courthouse Locations.)
You can also find links to forms online on the Download Court Forms page.
Most domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers. (Go to NC Where to Find Help to find an organization in your area.)
The clerk can usually notarize the forms for you.
On the complaint, you will be the "plaintiff" and the abuser will be the "defendant."
In the small box provided for explaining why you want the DVPO, write briefly about the most recent incident of violence, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Clerks and magistrates can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write.
If your abuser has any firearms, be sure to alert the court so the firearms can be removed from the abuser's possession. If you have children, you may also want to check the box asking for temporary custody. (See also NC Custody)
If you need immediate protection, check the box at the bottom of the complaint to ask for an ex parte order which, if a judge grants it, will take effect immediately. An ex parte order is a temporary emergency order that a judge can grant you if you or your child are in immediate danger. (The abuser does not have to be with you or be told you are asking the judge for an ex parte order.)
Write your name and a safe mailing address and phone number. If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not the street address. Keep in mind that the abuser will receive a copy of the complaint and summons.
The “Identifying information about the Defendant” form is used to assist law enforcement in serving and enforcing the order. This form is not required, but may allow law enforcement agencies to locate and more quickly identify the persons involved in the case and to enforce the provisions of the order more effectively. Here you should provide information about:
Take the forms, including "Identifying Information About the Defendant" and "Civil Summons," to the Sheriff's Department so they can serve the defendant with the summons, complaint, and notice of hearing (and the ex parte order if one was granted). "Notice of the Hearing" is the document that tells the defendant where and when to appear for the hearing. Counties do this differently. In some counties the clerk of courts sends the forms to the sheriff, in other counties the plaintiff has to take the forms to the sheriff. Please contact your local domestic violence program or the clerk of courts to find out the way it is handled in your county.
You will have to provide some contact information for the defendant so the Sheriff can find him. You may want to give the Sheriff a picture of the defendant and any information you have that will help them locate him. The defendant must receive notice of the hearing from the Sheriff. If the defendant does not receive notice, the hearing will be rescheduled. In addition, if an ex parte order was granted, the defendant must be served with the order for it to be in effect and be enforced.
Note: If you received an ex parte order, keep a copy of it with you at all times. You may also leave a copy with your employer, children’s school, or any place where you or your children often go to.
As the plaintiff requesting a DVPO, you must prove that the defendant has committed acts of domestic violence (as defined by the law) against you or your children. Judges are required to grant DVPOs if they find that an act of domestic violence has occurred. You no longer have to prove that an order is needed to keep you safe.
See the Preparing your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. It is generally recommended to have an attorney at the hearing. If you need to ask the judge for a continuance (more time) to find a lawyer, the continuance will be limited to one extension of no more than 10 days unless all parties consent or you can show "good cause" for extending it longer.*
* NCGS § 50B-2(c)(5)
On the day of the hearing, you must go to the hearing to ask to have your ex parte order (good only for up to 10 days) turned into a DVPO, which will last for up to one year. If you do not go to the hearing, your ex parte order will expire. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a DVPO or may reschedule the hearing.
You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if your abuser has a lawyer. You can also represent yourself. If your abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a "continuance" (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer. However, the continuance will be limited to one extension of no more than 10 days unless all parties consent or you can show "good cause" for extending it longer.* (Go to NC Finding a Lawyer to find help in your area.)
* NCGS § 50B-2(c)(5)
If you cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the judge's office to ask that your case be "continued," but the judge may deny your request. If the judge denies your request and you miss the hearing, you would have to begin the process over again and re-apply for a new ex parte/ temporary order and DVPO. It can be very difficult to get an order entered by the court once a complaint has been dismissed because you failed to appear in court.