DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is recommended
Initial Filing Fee: $0
North Carolina offers many different types of restraining orders. The main distinction between categories is whether or not you have a pre-existing relationship with the person you are seeking the restraining order against. A pre-existing relationship includes someone you are:
• Married to
• Divorced from
• Have a child with
• A person of the opposite sex you have co-habited with, now or in the past
• Someone you have dated
• A current or former household member
• Grandparent, grandchild, parent or child (not under the age of 16)
All other types of restraining orders fall under the category of a Civil No Contact Order. In general, these orders are only good for one year, and can then be renewed for up to two years. You must come to court in order to provide your evidence.
There are many domestic violence centers in North Carolina that can help you with your case and ensure you present it properly. The CARE Center is probably the most well known. You can fill out the forms and file the complaint without a lawyer, but it is not recommended. The process can be quite painful and complex, which is why there are a number of free resources that will make it easier for you to seek council.
Step 1: Choose Your Restraining Order
If you have a relationship with the person harassing you, then you probably want a Domestic Violence Protective Order. These can be brought for a variety of reasons, and apply in almost all cases where you have had a relationship with the person. You may bring this kind of suit when you feel “threatened” or “in danger,” which falls under the category of domestic violence. The Protective Order will not go into effect until after your court hearing, but you may also file an Ex Parte or Temporary Protective Order on the same day to protect you until then.
If you do not have a relationship with the defendant, you will need to fill out the forms for the Civil No Contact Order. It provides all the same protections, but doesn’t deal with current living situations or other problems that occur when you have a relationship with the person. In North Carolina, unlike with other states, your hearing is scheduled within 10 days and you always have a right to a temporary order of protection, which can be granted immediately.
Step 2: Fill out the Forms
Fill out the complaint form as thoroughly as possible. You need to be detailed about what has happened and when, and explain exactly why you are filing these forms. You should start with the most recent event, and work back in time. If you are requesting possession of certain items or property, or if you are asking for anyone to be evicted, you need to include that on your form.
Step 3: File the Forms
You may file the forms with the county clerk’s office in the county where you live, the county where the abuser lives, or in the county where the abuse happened. All of these locations have jurisdiction over the case. After you have filed, the defendant will be notified and a hearing will be set in ten days. If you feel that you need immediate relief (Temporary Protective Order), you will see the judge Ex Parte immediately to get that order in place.
Not all orders are “no contact”, meaning that the defendant cannot contact you. You can choose a lesser order if it is more appropriate. These include ordering the defendant to avoid the following places:
• Your residence
• Your place of employment
• A day care where your children are
• Specifically named places
• Any place where you are staying
• The school your children attend
• The school you attend
Step 4: Attend the Hearing
At the hearing, the judge can extend the protective order to last for up to one year. North Carolina does not allow for longer protective orders. In one year’s time, you can renew the order for as many as two years. This is the most “permanent” protective order offered in North Carolina.
At the hearing, the defendant has a right to speak, defend him or herself, and present his or her own case. You need to be prepared to present your facts, even in the face of your abuser, who you will have to see in court. This can be difficult for some people, but you must remain calm and stick to the facts. It is best if you make a full list of all the events that led you to filing for the protective order, so that you may refer to it in court.
Step 5: Enforce the Order
If the defendant is disobeying the order, you have to call the police immediately. If you receive threatening emails or phone calls, you need to contact the authorities. You should also keep a record of all violations, as you may be asked to present them in court if the harassment continues.
It is also important to track order violations so that you can cite them when you ask for an order extension. If your abuser continues to disobey the order, it can result in criminal charges, in which case the issue is no longer a civil one. Criminal protective orders are only ordered by the court, and can be for a much longer period of time than civil ones.