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)
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)
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:
- A temporary civil no-contact order, and
- 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)
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
What protections can I get in a civil no-contact order?
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)
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)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.