Legal Information: North Carolina

North Carolina Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

A restraining order or protective order is a legal order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another.  In North Carolina, there are domestic violence protective orders and two types of civil no-contact orders, which are explained below.

Overview of Civil vs. Criminal Law

A quick overview of the legal system

The legal system is divided into two areas: civil law and criminal law. Separate courts control these two areas of the law.

One thing that some might find confusing about the legal system is the difference between civil cases and criminal cases. In domestic violence situations, there may be both civil and criminal cases occurring at the same time as a result of the same violent act. You may want to pursue both civil and criminal actions for maximum protection. The major differences have to do with who takes the case to court and the reason for the case.

Civil Law
In a civil domestic violence action, you are asking the court to protect you from the person abusing you. You are not asking the court to send that person to jail for committing a crime. However, if the abuser violates the civil court order, s/he may be sent to jail for the violation. In a civil case, you are the person bringing the case against the abuser and, generally, you have the right to withdraw (drop) the case if you want to.

Criminal Law
The criminal law system handles all cases that involve violations of criminal law such as harassment, assault, murder, theft, etc.  A criminal complaint involves the abuser (defendant) being charged with a crime. In a criminal case, the prosecutor (also called the district attorney) is the one who has control over whether the case against the abuser continues or not.  It is the county/state who has brought the case against the abuser, not the victim. It is possible that if you do not want the case to continue (if you do not want to “press charges”), the prosecutor might decide to drop the criminal charges but this is not necessarily true. The prosecutor can also continue to prosecute the abuser against your wishes and could even issue a subpoena (a court order) to force you to testify at the trial.

For more help and information on the NC legal system, please contact a local legal assistance program at the NC Finding a Lawyer.  

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Domestic Violence Protective Orders ("50B orders")

A domestic violence protective order is a civil order that provides protection from someone with whom you have/had a "personal relationship."

Basic info

What is the legal definition of domestic violence in North Carolina?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protective order (DVPO). Domestic violence in North Carolina is when someone you have had a "personal relationship" with does any of the following to you or your minor child:

  • attempts to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causes bodily injury;
  • places you or a member of your family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
  • continued harassment (as defined here) that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress; or
  • commits any rape or sexual offense listed here in sections 14-27.21 through 14-27.33.1

If you have not had a "personal relationship" with the abuser, harasser or stalker, you may be eligible for a civil no-contact order.

1 NCGS § 50B-1(a)

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What types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

In North Carolina, there are two types of domestic violence protective orders:

  1. Ex parte temporary protective orders; and
  2. Final domestic violence protective orders (also called a DVPO or a 50B order or a restraining order).

An ex parte temporary protective order is a court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from the abuser.  A judge may issue an ex parte order the same day you file your complaint for a domestic violence protective order (without the abuser present) if s/he believes that there is a serious and immediate danger to you or your child.  If the judge does not issue the ex parte order on the same day, the court must hear the request for an ex parte order within 72 hours or by the end of the next day on which the court is in session in the county of the filing, whichever occurs first.1  Note: Hearings held to consider an ex parte temporary protective order may be held via video conference.2

An ex parte temporary protective order will protect you until your full court hearing takes place, usually within 10 days from when the order is granted or within 7 days from the date the respondent is served, whichever occurs later.1  Note: The ex parte order will not be able to be enforced until the defendant is served with a copy of the order.

A final domestic violence protective order (also called a DVPO or a 50B order or restraining order) lasts up to one year.  You can ask the court to extend the order for an additional two years (with the exception of the custody provisions), but you must do so before it expires.3 (See How do I modify or extend my order?)  Before the order is issued, you will have to have a full court hearing to get a final domestic violence protective order. In this hearing, the abuser will have a chance to defend himself/herself.  Unlike ex parte hearings, a hearing for a final domestic violence protective order cannot be held via video conference.2

1 NCGS § 50B-2(c)(5)
2 NCGS § 50B-2(e)
3 NCGS § 50B-3(b)

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How can a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) help me?

A DVPO can:

  • Order the abuser not to assault, threaten, abuse, follow, harass, or interfere with you and your children in person, at work, on the telephone, or by other means;
  • Allow you to live in the home where you and the abuser have lived together and order the abuser to move out and not return, no matter who owns the home or is on the lease;
  • Order the abuser to provide suitable alternative housing for you;
  • Tell the police to remove the abuser from the home and help you to return to the home;
  • Give you possession of personal property including a car and household goods, except for the abuser's personal belongings;
  • Order the abuser to stay away from any place you request including your school, your children's school, your work place, your friends' homes, or any place where you are seeking shelter;
  • Order the abuser not to harm your pet;
  • Give you possession of your pet;
  • Give you temporary custody of a minor child, order the abuser to pay temporary child support, and establish temporary visitation (custody, child support, and visitation only apply if the abuser is the parent of the child);
  • Order your spouse to pay temporary spousal support;
  • Order the abuser to hand over any firearms and prohibit the abuser from purchasing a firearm;
  • Order the abuser to attend an abuser's treatment program;
  • Order the abuser to pay attorney's fees; and/or
  • Order the abuser to do anything else you ask for and the judge agrees to.1

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

1 NCGS § 50B-3

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Can my pet be included in my DVPO?

Yes. If there is a pet in your household (owned by you, your child, or the abuser) and you have concerns for your pet’s safety you can ask a judge to order the abuser not to hurt the pet as part of your 50B order. If the abuser is keeping you from your pet or you worry that the abuser may take the pet with him/her, you can also ask that you be the one to keep the pet.1 This remedy is available in temporary and final DVPOs. You should also include any information about the abuser hurting or threatening to hurt your pet(s) in the complaint.

1 NCGS § 50B-3(a)(8), (9)(b1)

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In which county can I file for a protective order?

You can file a petition in the county where you live (permanently or temporarily), or in the county where the abuser lives.1

1 NCGS § 1-82

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Who can get a DVPO

Who 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, which includes:

  • 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. ("Dating" is defined as being romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship.)1

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

If you have not had a "personal relationship" with the abuser, harasser or stalker, you may be eligible for a civil no-contact order.2

1 NCGS § 50B-1(b)
2 NCGS § 50C-1

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Can I get a DVPO against a same-sex partner?

In North Carolina, you may apply for a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who can get a domestic violence protective order (DVPO)?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in North Carolina?

Note: For non-married people in dating relationships or living together, the law specifically says that the people have to be of the opposite sex to file for a domestic violence protective order.1

1 NCGS § 50B-1(b)

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How much does it cost?

Nothing. There are no fees for filing for a domestic violence protective order.1

1 NCGS § 50B-2(a)

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Do I need an attorney?

No, you do not need an attorney to file for a DVPO or to get an ex parte order.1  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 our NC Places that Help page to find an organization in your area.

1 NCGS § 50B-2(a)

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What 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.1  For more information, see our NC Workplace Protections page.

1 NCGS § 50B-5.5

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What 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 may be eligible file for a civil no-contact order.1

Also, the abuser may be committing a crime for which s/he may be arrested.  For definitions of common crimes in North Carolina, go to our Crimes page.

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

Domestic violence protective orders 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.  See our NC Advocates and Shelters page for referrals.

 

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Steps for obtaining a DVPO

Step 1: Go to the courthouse to get and file the necessary forms.

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 get the forms you need from the clerk or you can get the forms beforehand online on our Download Court Forms page.

On the complaint, you will be the "plaintiff" and the abuser will be the "defendant." In the space provided, write about the most recent incidents 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. Do not sign the forms until you are in front of a notary or a clerk.

If the 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.  For more information on custody, see our Custody page.

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Step 2: You can ask for an ex parte temporary order for immediate protection.

If you need immediate protection, you can check the box on the complaint to ask for an ex parte order. An ex parte order is a temporary emergency order that a judge can grant you if you or your child are in immediate danger. Note: Hearings held to consider an ex parte temporary protective order may be held via video conference.1 The abuser will not be notified beforehand that you are asking the judge for an ex parte order.

If the judge believes you or your children are in serious and immediate danger, s/he may give you an ex parte order which is good for 10 days, until your full court hearing. If you are there after business hours, some magistrates may give you an ex parte order which is good only until the case is heard by a judge, which should occur by the end of the next day on which the court is in session in the county.2

You must return to the courthouse to see a judge to get an ex parte order that will last for up to 10 days, until you can have a full court hearing. Whether the judge or magistrate grants you an ex parte order or not, you will be given a court date for a full court "hearing" within 10 days. This hearing will be in front of a judge at the time shown on the Notice of Hearing. At this hearing, your abuser and you will both have a chance to explain your sides to the judge.

1 NCGS § 50B-2(e)
2 NCGS § 50B-2(c1)

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Step 3: Take the forms to the sheriff's department

If the clerk does not do this for you, you may have to take the appropriate forms 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). 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 court 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/her.  You may want to give the sheriff a picture of the defendant and any information you have that will help them locate him/her.  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.

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Step 4: Preparing for the domestic violence protective order hearing.

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.

See the Preparing Your Case section 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.1

1 NCGS § 50B-2(c)(5)

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Step 5: Attend the hearing.

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.  Note: Unlike ex parte hearings, a hearing for a final domestic violence protective order cannot be held via video conference.1

You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  You can also represent yourself.  If the 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.2  Go to our NC Finding a Lawyer page to find help in your area.

1 NCGS § 50B-2(e)
2 NCGS § 50B-2(c)(5)

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After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in North Carolina have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

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What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If you have any questions about it, be sure to ask the clerk.
  • Make several copies of the DVPO as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the DVPO with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the DVPO at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. The sheriff may deliver a copy of the order to the children’s school if the defendant has been ordered to stay away from the school but you may want to give one to the school to be sure.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work. You may also want to give them a photo of the defendant.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

You may also wish to make a safety plan. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips or click the tab on the top of this page.

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How do I make sure that the domestic violence protective order is enforced?

Violating a DVPO is against the law. There are 3 ways to get help if the abuser violates the DVPO.

  1. Through the Police or Sheriff (Criminal)
    If the defendant violates the DVPO, you have the option of calling 911 immediately. In some cases, the defendant can be arrested right away. Tell the officers you have a DVPO and the defendant is violating it. Be prepared to show the officer a copy of your order. If the defendant is arrested, then the district attorney can prosecute the abuser because it is a crime to violate a DVPO. If found guilty of a violation of a DVPO, the defendant can be put in jail for up to 150 days depending on the defendant’s criminal record.1
  2. Through the Magistrate's Office (Criminal)
    If the officers do not arrest the defendant immediately, you may contact the magistrate's office to ask for a criminal "warrant" for violation of the DVPO. The warrant tells the police to arrest the abuser. Then, the district attorney can prosecute the abuser. If found guilty, the abuser can be put in jail for up to 150 days depending on the defendant’s prior criminal record.1
  3. Through the Civil Court System (Civil)
    You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. The abuser is in "civil contempt" if he or she does anything that your DVPO orders him or her not to do. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office and ask for a "motion for order to show cause" in a DVPO.2 If the court finds that the defendant is in contempt, the defendant may be ordered to pay a fine and/or be sentenced to jail time.

NOTE: If you take out a criminal warrant through the magistrate's office and contempt papers through the civil court system based on the same events, contact the district attorney's office before either hearing to discuss punishment options.

1 NCGS § 50B-4.1
2 NCGS § 50B-4(a)

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Can I modify or extend my order?

To modify (change) or extend your order, go back to the court where you got it and file a petition with the clerk. The judge can modify an order after a hearing is held if there is "good cause" to do so.1

To extend your order, you must file the petition before your order expires. A judge can extend/renew your order if there is "good cause" to do so. There does not have to be a new act of domestic violence for the judge to renew the order. It can be renewed for up to two years and you can get the order renewed more than once. However, if you were granted temporary custody as part of your original protective order, this cannot be renewed/extended because this temporary custody can only last for a one-year period.2

Note: It is often helpful to file for the renewal at least 30 days before your order expires to make sure there is adequate time for a hearing to be scheduled and conducted.

1 NCGS § 50B-3(b2)
2 NCGS § 50B-3(b)

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What happens if I move?

If you move within North Carolina or to any other state in the U.S., your order will still be valid and good.

Federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. For example, some states require you to register your order in the new state. You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.

To read more about how to get your protective order enforced in another state, please see our Moving to Another State with a Protective Order page.  If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order.

 

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Civil No-Contact Order ("50C orders")

A civil no-contact order ("50C") provides protection from nonconsensual sexual conduct and stalking from someone with whom you do not have an intimate or familial relationship, such as an acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger.

Basic info and definitions

What is a civil no-contact order?

A civil no-contact order (also known as a 50C order), is a court order that aims to protect you from unwanted sexual conduct or stalking by someone you do NOT have an intimate or familial relationship with1 (such as an acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger).  If you have one of the intimate or familial relationships with the offender that is described in Who can get a domestic violence protection order (DVPO)?, then you would need to file for a domestic violence protective order (DVPO), not a civil no-contact order.

In a civil no-contact order, a judge can order the abuser or stalker to stop all nonconsensual sexual conduct, to stop stalking you and to stay away from you.2  You may receive a temporary order, which will last until you can have a full court hearing (usually within 10 days)3 and a permanent order, which will last up to one year.4

1 NCGS § 50C-1(8)
2 NCGS § 50C-5(b)
3 NCGS § 50C-6(b)(4)
4 NCGS § 50C-8(b)

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What are the legal definitions of “nonconsensual sexual conduct” and “stalking” in North Carolina?

For the purposes of getting a civil no-contact order, you have to be the victim of either nonconsensual (unwanted) sexual conduct or stalking.  These two acts may also be referred to as “unlawful conduct” in court.

Nonconsensual sexual conduct
is generally any intentional touching, fondling, or sexual act (either directly or through your clothing), for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal that you did not consent to.  For the exact definition, please go to our NC Statutes page.

Stalking is generally when someone repeatedly follows or harasses you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear for your safety or your immediate family's safety or to cause you emotional distress (harm).1  For the exact definition, please go to our NC Statutes page.

1 NCGS § 50C-1(4), (6) & (7)

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What types of civil no-contact orders are there? How long do they last?

In North Carolina, there are two types of civil no-contact orders:

  1. A temporary civil no-contact order, and
  2. A permanent civil no-contact order (for one year).

A temporary civil no-contact order is designed to provide you with immediate protection from the abuser/stalker.  A judge may issue an ex parte temporary order on the same day you file your complaint for a civil no-contact order (without giving the offender a chance to be heard at the initial hearing) if s/he believes that there is a serious and immediate danger to you.  Note: Hearings held to consider an ex parte temporary civil no-contact order may be held via video conference.1

The temporary order will generally last for up to 10 days until the court hearing where the abuser / stalker can be present.  The order can be extended (and the hearing can be delayed) if there is “good cause” to do so or if the respondent consents.  The temporary order is not valid until the respondent is served with a copy of the order.  Note: If you are denied a temporary ex parte order, the judge may still hold a hearing to decide whether or not to grant you a permanent civil no-contact order; that hearing must be scheduled within 30 days from the date that you were denied the ex parte order.2

In order to get a permanent civil no-contact order, you need to have a full court hearing.  The abuser or stalker has to be served with notice of the hearing so s/he has an opportunity to attend.  At the hearing, you will both have a chance to present evidence, witnesses and testimony to prove your case. It may be best to have an attorney present at this hearing to make sure your rights are protected.  Unlike ex parte hearings, a hearing for a final domestic violence protective order cannot be held via video conference.3  A permanent no-contact civil order lasts up to one year.  You can ask the court to extend the order, but you must do so before it expires.4   For more information on extending a permanent order, see Can I file to extend my final civil no-contact order beyond one year?

1 NCGS § 50C-6
2 NCGS § 50C-8(a)
3 NCGS § 50C-8(e)
4 NCGS § 50C-8(c)

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How does a judge decide whether or not to extend my temporary order to a final order?

The judge will hold a hearing generally within 10 days from when the temporary order was issued to decide whether or not to extend your order.  During this hearing, the respondent can respond to the allegations of unlawful conduct that you included in your petition to get the temporary order and can try and explain, excuse, justify, or deny his/her conduct. The judge will then consider all of the evidence and decide whether or not the unlawful conduct actually happened. The judge has to believe that it is “more likely than not” that an act of unlawful conduct (unwanted sexual conduct or stalking) happened to rule in your favor.  If the judge decides that an act of unlawful conduct did occur, then s/he will grant you a final order.1

1 NCGS § 50C-7

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How can a civil no-contact order help me?

A civil no-contact order can:

  • Order the respondent not to visit, assault, molest, or interfere with you in any way;
  • Order the respondent to stop stalking or harassing you, including at your workplace;
  • Order the respondent not to abuse or injure you;
  • Order the respondent not to contact you by telephone, written communication, or electronic means (i.e., email or social websites);
  • Order the respondent to stay away from your residence, school, work, or other specified places at times when you are present; and
  • Order other relief that the court thinks is necessary and appropriate to protect you, including ordering either party to pay the other's attorney's fees.1

1 NCGS § 50C-5(b)

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Where do I file for a civil no-contact order?

You can file for a civil no-contact order in the district court in the county where you live, in the county where the abuser/stalker lives, or in the county where the unlawful conduct took place.1

1 NCGS § 50C-2(c)

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Who can get a civil no-contact order

Am I eligible to file for a civil no-contact order?

Any person who has suffered nonconsensual sexual acts or stalking as defined by North Carolina law can apply to the court for a civil no-contact order.  These acts must be committed by someone you do not have an intimate or familial relationship with.1   If you have an intimate or familial relationship with the offender (as is explained in Who can get a domestic violence protection order (DVPO)?), you would file for a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) instead.  You do not have to have a physical injury to get a civil no-contact order.2

1 NCGS § 50C-1(8)
2 NCGS § 50C-5(a)

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Can I apply for a civil no-contact order if I am a minor?

No. A parent or legal guardian has to file a civil no-contact order for you.1

1 NCGS § 50C-2(a)(2)

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Can I file for a civil no-contact order against a minor?

A civil no-contact order can only be filed against someone who is 16 years old or older.1 However, you can still report any act of unwanted sexual conduct or stalking by someone of any age (including someone under 16) to the police.

1 NCGS § 50C-1(7)

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Getting the order

What are the steps involved with getting a civil no-contact order?

The steps to get a civil no-contact order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence protective order.  If you have any questions, call the clerk of court.  You can find the contact information for your courthouse’s clerk on the NC Courthouse Locations page .

In general, you have to file a complaint for a civil no-contact order in the district court in the county where you live, in the county where the abuser/stalker lives, or in the county where the unlawful conduct took place.1  Service upon the respondent will be done via "personal service" by the sheriff's department.  If the sheriff cannot locate the respondent, s/he can be served by publication, which is explained in the law here (go to subsection (j)(1)).2  The respondent has the option of filing a written answer with the court to respond to your allegations in the complaint within 10 days of service.  If s/he does not answer and does not appear in court, the judge may grant you the order on “default.”3

1 NCGS § 50C-2(a)
2 NCGS §§ 50C-3(b); 1A-4(j)
3 NCGS § 50C-3(a),(c)

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How much does a civil no-contact order cost?

Nothing. A civil no-contact order is free of charge.1

1 NCGS §§ 50C-2(b); 1-82

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Will the abuser or stalker be notified that I am trying to get a civil no-contact order against him/her?

Yes. The abuser or stalker must be personally served with a copy of your petition and the temporary no-contact order (if there is one) as well as notice of the hearing where the judge will decide whether or not to grant you a final civil no-contact order.1 The legal papers (summons, notice, temporary order) will be served upon the respondent personally by the sheriff and if the sheriff cannot locate the respondent, s/he can be served by publication, which is explained in the law here (go to subsection (j1)).2

1 NCGS § 50C-3(b)
2 NCGS §§ 50C-3(b); 1A-4(j)

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Will the abuser or stalker have access to my address?

No. If you state to the clerk that having your address on the court forms would place you or a family member at risk, you may omit your address from all the documents filed with the court. However, you have to provide an alternative address to receive notice of any court proceedings or motions made by the respondent.1 You may also apply for the NC Department of Justice Address Confidentiality Program, which allows domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking victims to keep their address safe from possible or former abusers by using the government address for mail and the government forwards the mail to your confidential address.

1 NCGS § 50C-2(d)

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After the hearing

Can I file to extend my final civil no-contact order beyond the 1 year?

Yes, you can apply to extend it.  You can file to renew the final order before the civil no-contact order runs out one or more times.  To file for a renewal, you must file a “motion to renew no-contact order.”  You do not need a new incident of unlawful conduct to renew your order – the judge can renew it if s/he finds there is “good cause” to do so.1

1 NCGS § 50C-8(c)

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What happens if the abuser/stalker violates the civil no-contact order?

Civil No-Contact Orders for Victims of Registered Sex Offenders ("50D orders")

A civil no-contact order for victims of registered sex offenders (“50D order”), provides life-long protection from an abuser who was convicted of a crime that requires registration on the sex offender registry.

Basic info

What is a civil no-contact order for victims of registered sex offenders?

A civil no-contact order for victims of registered sex offenders (also known as a “50D order”), is a life-long court order that aims to protect you from an abuser who was convicted of a crime that requires registration on the sex offender registry.1

1 NCGS § 50D-1

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Who can get a civil no-contact order for victims of registered sex offenders?

If you are the victim of a sex offense (or certain other non-sexual offenses) that occurred in North Carolina or if you are the victim of a substantially similar crime in another state, you may be eligible for a 50D civil no-contact order if:

  • The abuser was convicted of the offense; and
  • The criminal offense requires registration on the sex offender registry.1

You may also be able to file on behalf of a minor child or an incompetent adult who is a victim of registerable sex offense.2

1 NCGS §§ 50D-2(a)(1); 14-208.6(4)(b)
2 NCGS § 50D-2(a)(2),(3)

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What crimes could qualify me for a 50D civil no-contact order?

Most of the crimes that require registration are sexually violent crimes, including forcible rape of an adult or child, statutory rape, sexual battery, and sexual exploitation of a minor.  Other crimes are sexual in nature, but not necessarily violent, such as felony peeping.  Certain non-sexual offenses against a minor also require registration, including kidnapping, felonious restraint and abducting a child (if the offender is not the minor’s parent).1  You can read more about which crimes require registration by reading the language of the law NCGS § 14-208.6 on our NC Statutes page or by looking at the chart created by the University of North Carolina School of Government

Note: You may also be eligible for a 50D order if the abuser was convicted in another state or in federal court of an offense that is significantly similar to the registerable offenses in North Carolina or if the offense requires registration in the state where the abuser was convicted.2

1 NCGS § 14-208.6(4)(a),(5)
2 NCGS § 14-208.6(4)(b),(c)

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How long does a civil no-contact order for victims of registered sex offenders last?

The order is permanent and can last forever.1

1 NCGS § 50D-1

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Getting the order

What do I have to prove for the judge to grant me a civil no-contact order?

If the judge finds the following is true, s/he can issue a civil no-contact order:

  • The abuser was convicted of committing a sex offense against you;
  • You did not seek a permanent no-contact order in criminal court under NCGS § 15A-1340.50;
  • There are reasonable grounds for you to fear that the abuser will contact you in the future; and
  • The abuser received notice of the case, and either
    • answered the complaint and notice of the hearing was given, or
    • failed to respond to the complaint and is in default.1

1 NCGS § 50D-5(a)

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How can a civil no-contact order help me?

A civil no-contact order can order that the abuser not:

  • threaten, visit, assault, molest, or otherwise interfere with you;
  • follow you, including at your workplace;
  • harass you;
  • abuse or injure you;
  • contact you by telephone, written communication, or electronic means;
  • enter or remain present at your residence, school, place of employment, or other specified places at times when you are present;
  • The judge can also order anything else s/he finds necessary and appropriate.1

1 NCGS § 50D-5(b)

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How is a 50D civil no-contact different than a 50C civil no-contact order or a 50B domestic violence protective order?

All three orders, 50D, 50C and 50B, can protect victims of sexual assault.  However, 50D no-contact orders are permanent, whereas 50C and 50B orders must be renewed in person each time the order expires.1  Additionally, another important difference is that victims of sexual assault are only eligible for a 50D civil no-contact order if the offender was convicted and the offense requires registration on the sex-offender registry.2  You can read more about 50C orders on our Civil No-Contact Order ("50C orders") page and 50B orders on our Domestic Violence Protective Orders ("50B orders") page.

1 NCGS §§ 50D-1(1);50C-8(c);50B-3(b)
2 NCGS § 50D-5

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Enforcing Your Out-of-State Order in North Carolina

If you are planning to move to North Carolina or are going to be in North Carolina for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in North Carolina

Can I get my protection order enforced in North Carolina? What are the requirements?

Yes. Your protection order can be enforced in North Carolina as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story. It doesn’t matter if s/he actually showed up in court; just that s/he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b); NCGS

§ 50B-4(d)

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Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in North Carolina?

No. Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order. You cannot have this done by a court in North Carolina.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued. You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living. To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in North Carolina, you may be able to get a new one issued in North Carolina but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in North Carolina. To find out more information on how to get a protective order in North Carolina, visit our NC Restraining Orders page.

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I was granted temporary custody with my out-of-state protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in North Carolina?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 North Carolina can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area click here NC Finding a Lawyer.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

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Registering your out-of-state order in North Carolina

What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

All law enforcement officials have access to it, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

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How do I register my protection order in North Carolina?

To register your protection order in North Carolina, go to the Superior Court in your county, and bring the following items:

  1. One (1) copy of your protection order. It does not need to be a certified copy.
  2. A copy of the "Request and Affidavit to Register and Registration of Out-of-state Domestic Violence Protective Order" (AOC-CV-315).  This form is available online and at the superior court. Go to our NC Download Court Forms page to find a link to this form online.
  3. A copy of the "Identifying Information About Defendant Domestic Violence Action" (AOC-CV-312). This form is available online and at the superior court. Go to our NC Download Court Forms page to find a link to this form online.

When you give the forms and the copy of your protection order to the clerk of the court, you will need to swear under oath that to the best of your knowledge, the order is still in effect and nothing about the order has been changed.  Then you will sign the form in front of the clerk.

To find the superior court in your county, go to our NC Courthouse Locations page.

Once the Superior Court receives all of this information from you, the clerk will send a copy to the sheriff who will enter your protection order into the National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC).1 

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in North Carolina for assistance.  You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our NC Advocates and Shelters page.

 1 NCGS

§ 50B-3(d)
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Do I have to register my protection order in North Carolina in order to get it enforced?

No. North Carolina state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order as long as you can show the officer a copy of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect.1 It does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by a North Carolina police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is a valid order.

1 NCGS



§ 50B-4(d)


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Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Staying Safe page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our NC Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

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What if I don't register my protection order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

Maybe.  While neither federal law nor state law requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for a North Carolina law enforcement official to determine whether or not your order is real, which means that it could take longer to get your order enforced.

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in North Carolina.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations, go to our NC State and Local Programs page.

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Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. There is no fee for registering your protection order in North Carolina.

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Moving to Another State with a Protective Order

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your DVPO can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my DVPO from North Carolina enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid North Carolina DVPO that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state. The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid DVPOs granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories. See How do I know if my DVPO is good under federal law? to find out if your DVPO qualifies.

"Full faith and credit" means that each state must enforce out-of-state DVPOs in the same way it enforces its own orders. Meaning, if your abuser violates your out-of-state DVPO, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.

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How do I know if my DVPO is good under federal law?

A DVPO is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story. It doesn’t matter if s/he actually showed up in court; just that s/he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

 

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I have a temporary ex parte order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes.  An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my DVPO is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires.  If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court).  However, you may be able to apply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

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Getting your protective order enforced in another state

How do I get my DVPO enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your domestic violence protection order (DVPO) enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid DVPO is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1  Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

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Do I need anything special to get my DVPO enforced in another state?

In most states, you will need a certified copy of your DVPO. A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. However, in some states you can simply show law enforcement a copy that appears valid on its face for it to be enforced. In North Carolina, a certified order has a stamped seal on it. If the copy you originally received was not a certified copy, you can go to the court that gave you the order and ask the clerk's office for a certified copy.

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Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your DVPO enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your DVPO, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the Places that Help tab on the top of this page. 

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Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my DVPO. Will another state enforce the custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a DVPO can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 USC § 2266

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I was granted temporary custody with my DVPO. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe. It will depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your DVPO. You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

To read more about custody laws in North Carolina, go to our Custody page.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the NC area on our NC Places that Help page.

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