Media outlets report surge in domestic violence cases globally during lockdowns. China’s divorce rates spike after the lockdown is lifted. These trends may be a worrying warning for couples in North Carolina and elsewhere in the U.S. who are isolating at home: close quarters may be a breeding ground for conflict. While courts in North Carolina are only hearing emergency matters, civil protective orders against spouses or family members who are abusive continue to be granted during lockdown. In North Carolina, a victim of Domestic Violence can obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order for up to one-year. As part of a domestic violence claim, the Court can Prohibit any and all contact by the abuser or any third-party at the directive of the abuser; Prevent the abuser from coming to the victim’s home, school, place of work, or prevent the abuser from coming to a child/children’s daycare, school, or other place they spend time; Evict the abuser from a home shared with the victim; Force the abuser to surrender any guns owed and/or prevent the abuser from purchasing any guns during the term of the Order; Force the abuser to surrender possessions; Determine a temporary child custody schedule; Award financial support to the victim.
To seek a Domestic Violence Protective Order under N.C.G.S. § 50-B, the victim must have a personal relationship with the abuser, which is defined as Current or former spouses; Persons of the opposite sex who live together or who have lived together; Are related as parents and children, including those acting in loco parentis to a minor or as grandparents and grandchildren; Parties that have a child in common; Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship. This relationship must be a romantic involvement over a period of time and does not include casual acquaintances.
If you and your abuser do not have a relationship described above, you can still seek protection from the court in the form of a 50C No Contact Order. This is a restraining order that is specifically designed to protect victims of sexual assault or stalking who do NOT have a “personal relationship” with the offender. It is different from a Domestic Violence Protective Order, but it still allows a Judge to order specific forms of protection for a victim. In order to file for a 50C protective order, you must show that you have been the victim of “unlawful conduct” which is defined as “the commission of one or more of the following acts by a person 16 years of age or older upon a person, but does not include acts of self-defense or defense of others.” The acts included are nonconsensual sexual conduct, even if there was only one incident, and stalking. Stalking is defined as “on more than one occasion, following or otherwise harassing… another person without legal purpose with the intent to” either “place the person in reasonable fear either for the person’s safety or the safety of the person’s immediate family or close personal associates” or “cause that person to suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment and that in fact causes that person substantial emotional distress.”
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, no matter the type, please contact an attorney at Miller Bowles Cushing today to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.