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Family Law

Domestic Violence

If you are experiencing an emergency situation, please call 911.  

Allegations of domestic violence abuse are taken seriously and handled expeditiously by North Carolina courts. Relief for domestic violence victims are contained in Chapter 50B of the North Carolina Statutes and provide protection to those who experience abuse in a personal relationship through the issuance of protective order. 

In North Carolina there is not a criminal offense for domestic violence as there are for common law crimes such as assaults or communicating threats. However, it is not uncommon for family law attorneys to assist in the handling of domestic violence allegations  as there are often family law and relationship based-issues, like divorce and custody intertwined. 

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a devastating type of abuse that can happen to anyone, regardless of your gender, age, or status - marital, educational, or financial.  Domestic violence comes in many forms and it is not limited to physical abuse. In North Carolina the basic elements required for an act to be considered domestic violence include, but are not limited to: 

  • Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury; 
  • Placing a victim in fear of imminent harm; 
  • Continued harassment that “rises to a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress”, which can include any acts that frighten, intimidate, manipulate, hurt, or humiliate; 
  • Commission of any type of sexual offense, including rape. 

Who can Seek A Domestic Violence Protective Order?

In order to seek a  domestic violence protective order, the act must have occurred between two persons who are within a family unit or share a close personal relationship, such as by marriage, divorce, cohabitation, or dating.  A personal relationship specifically includes the following: 

  • Former or current spouses; 
  • Parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and persons acting in a parental capacity; 
  • Persons who are or formerly have been involved in a romantic relationship; 
  • Household members, including persons who have formerly lived together; 

Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPO)

Domestic Violence can present an urgent danger. Perpetrators are often erratic and irrational, and small incidents can quickly escalate. If you are a victim of abuse you can seek a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) from the court. Typically referred to as a restraining order or a 50B protective order, these orders of the court provide protection by ordering the other side to have no contact with a victim, including ordering them to stay away from a victim's residence and place of work. Additionally, in certain situations, a DVPO can temporarily award possession of a home and/or custody of children to a victim.

In emergency situations, the court has the ability to grant an ex parte protective order. These are entered immediately, without a hearing, and without notice to the abuser or with that person present. Ex parte restraining orders are temporary and are only valid for a finite time frame, generally no more than 10 days from the time it is issued, and cannot be extended without making that request before a judge in a courtroom.  An ex parte order can be replaced by an order with similar provisions that can last up to one year by consent of the parties or after a trial and a verdict in favor of the person seeking the order.

Consequences of Domestic Violence

If you have been accused of domestic violence it is critical you have an experienced attorney represent your interests. Abuse allegations can have serious and long-lasting consequences and an attorney with the knowledge and understanding of domestic violence laws can help you develop a strong defense strategy to protect your interests.  The consequences of domestic violence orders of protection extend beyond prohibiting contact and include: 

  • The loss or limitation of the ability to have involvement with your children; 
  • Removal from your residence; 
  • Fines and court costs; 
  • The requirement of treatment and counseling for abusers; 
  • The requirement for treatment for alcohol and/or substance abuse; 
  • Loss of firearm privileges and the ability to purchase additional weapons 

While domestic violence is not a criminal offense, violation of a domestic violence protective order can result in an arrest and being charged with a criminal offense that carries a possible jail sentence. 

Domestic violence is often hidden behind closed doors and goes unreported with victims living in fear. Legal protection is available. If you are a victim of domestic abuse or violence, we urge you to make a plan for your safety and the safety of your children. Local resources that can assist you include: Chatham Family Violence Prevention Services, the Chatham County Sheriff, and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Whether you are a victim of abuse or are accused of domestic violence, you can trust our attorneys at Hopper Cummings to help you understand your options. We will help you make informed decisions that provide the best protection and help you avoid further repercussions. Contact us today for a confidential consultation at 919-533-4115, or complete our online form


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This article and all of the content on this website are intended for information purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice or substituted for consultation with an experienced attorney. We strive to ensure the content on our site is current, informative, and based on North Carolina law and practice procedure in effect at the time of its writing and publication. Call our office to schedule a consultation at 919-533-4115, email us at, or complete a contact form on any page of this site for specific and accurate information about your unique matter.

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