Domestic violence is an issue that is more common than most people think.

Domestic violence is an issue that is more common than most people think. In 2011, 106 people in North Carolina died from domestic abuse.

Domestic violence is defined by statute in North Carolina.  It is limited in definition and consists of two parts.  First, there must be an act of 1) attempting to or intentionally causing serious bodily injury, 2) causing substantial emotional distress because of continued fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, 3) rape, or 4) sexual offenses.  Also, the parties involved must have had a personal relationship or be the minor child of one of the parties involved.  A “personal relationship” is defined in the statute as 1) current or former spouses, 2) persons of the opposite sex that live or have lived together, 3) parents and children (or someone acting as the guardian of a child), 4) persons that have a child together, 5) current or former household members, or 5) persons of the opposite sex who are or have been in a dating relationship.  Note that same-sex couples have weak domestic violence protection because of the way the definition is worded in the statute.

A victim of domestic violence may go to the magistrate and file domestic violence charges against the accused.  The victim may also obtain what is called a 50B restraining order against the accused at the courthouse.  This is a special type of restraining order only for domestic violence victims.  The restraining order may be obtained without consulting with an attorney and there is no filing fee.  An emergency order may be issued if there is evidence that there is imminent danger against the victim or a minor child.  A 50B protective order lasts for one year and can be extended up to two years after that.  A 50B petition can be filed in either the county where the accuser lives or where the victim lives. A 50B can do any of the following things:

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.

There are many resources for domestic violence victims including shelters and 24 hour crisis lines.  A few of those resources are listed here: http://www.ncdoj.gov/Help-for-Victims/Domestic-Violence-Victims.aspx.

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