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In 1979, North Carolina responded to the problem of domestic violence by enacting Chapter 50B, the Domestic Violence Act. The Act establishes that domestic violence comprises attempting to cause or intentionally causing bodily injury, and placing a person in fear of “imminent serious bodily injury” by threatening the use of force. Relief under this Act is available when the parties are related as follows: are current or former spouses; are persons who live together or have lived together; are related as parents and children or as grandparents and grandchildren unless the child or grandchild is under the age of 16; have a child in common; are current or former household members; or are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.
The Act provides a number of legal remedies, the most important of which is a Domestic Violence Protective Order (also called a Restraining Order or DVPO). The restraining order can contain any of the following: direct the batterer to refrain from threatening, abusing, following, harassing, or otherwise interfering with the victim; grant the victim possession of the residence and exclude the batterer; order eviction of batterer from residence and assist victim in returning to it; grant temporary custody of minor children and establish of visitation rights; order spousal support and/or child support; order possession of personal property; prohibit the batterer from purchasing a firearm; order the batterer to complete a treatment program. The restraining order can be entered for up to one year and can be renewed multiple times for “good cause.” Orders that are entered on or after October 1, 2005 may be renewed for up to 2 years rather than one year.
North Carolina’s criminal code also covers many acts of violence that commonly occur in abusive relationships, such as assault on a female; communicating threats; assault by pointing a gun; domestic criminal trespass; harassing phone calls; injury to a pregnant woman; assault with a deadly weapon; assault in the presence of a child; sexual battery; stalking; violation of a protective order.
§ 50B-2. Institution of civil action; motion for emergency relief; temporary orders(a) Any person residing in this State may seek relief under this Chapter by filing a civil action or by filing a motion in any existing action filed under Chapter 50 of the General Statutes alleging acts of domestic violence against himself or herself or a minor child who resides with or is in the custody of such person. Any aggrieved party entitled to relief under this Chapter may file a civil action and proceed pro se, without the assistance of legal counsel. The district court division of the General Court of Justice shall have original jurisdiction over actions instituted under this Chapter. No court costs shall be assessed for the filing, issuance, registration, or service of a protective order or petition for a protective order or witness subpoena in compliance with the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. 3796gg-5.
(b) Emergency Relief. – A party may move the court for emergency relief if he or she believes there is a danger of serious and immediate injury to himself or herself or a minor child. A hearing on a motion for emergency relief, where no ex parte order is entered, shall be held after five days’ notice of the hearing to the other party or after five days from the date of service of process on the other party, whichever occurs first, provided, however, that no hearing shall be required if the service of process is not completed on the other party. If the party is proceeding pro se and does not request an ex parte hearing, the clerk shall set a date for hearing and issue a notice of hearing within the time periods provided in this subsection, and shall effect service of the summons, complaint, notice, and other papers through the appropriate law enforcement agency where the defendant is to be served.
(c) Ex Parte Orders. – Prior to the hearing, if it clearly appears to the court from specific facts shown, that there is a danger of acts of domestic violence against the aggrieved party or a minor child, the court may enter such orders as it deems necessary to protect the aggrieved party or minor children from such acts provided, however, that a temporary order for custody ex parte and prior to service of process and notice shall not be entered unless the court finds that the child is exposed to a substantial risk of bodily injury or sexual abuse. Upon the issuance of an ex parte order under this subsection, a hearing shall be held within 10 days from the date of issuance of the order or within seven days from the date of service of process on the other party, whichever occurs later. If an aggrieved party acting pro se requests ex parte relief, the clerk of superior court shall schedule an ex parte hearing with the district court division of the General Court of Justice within 72 hours of the filing for said relief, or by the end of the next day on which the district court is in session in the county in which the action was filed, whichever shall first occur. If the district court is not in session in said county, the aggrieved party may contact the clerk of superior court in any other county within the same judicial district who shall schedule an ex parte hearing with the district court division of the General Court of Justice by the end of the next day on which said court division is in session in that county. Upon the issuance of an ex parte order under this subsection, if the party is proceeding pro se, the Clerk shall set a date for hearing and issue a notice of hearing within the time periods provided in this subsection, and shall effect service of the summons, complaint, notice, order and other papers through the appropriate law enforcement agency where the defendant is to be served.
(c1) Ex Parte Orders by Authorized Magistrate. – The chief district court judge may authorize a magistrate or magistrates to hear any motions for emergency relief ex parte. Prior to the hearing, if the magistrate determines that at the time the party is seeking emergency relief ex parte the district court is not in session and a district court judge is not and will not be available to hear the motion for a period of four or more hours, the motion may be heard by the magistrate. If it clearly appears to the magistrate from specific facts shown that there is a danger of acts of domestic violence against the aggrieved party or a minor child, the magistrate may enter such orders as it deems necessary to protect the aggrieved party or minor children from such acts, except that a temporary order for custody ex parte and prior to service of process and notice shall not be entered unless the magistrate finds that the child is exposed to a substantial risk of bodily injury or sexual abuse. An ex parte order entered under this subsection shall expire and the magistrate shall schedule an ex parte hearing before a district court judge within 72 hours of the filing for relief under this subsection, or by the end of the next day on which the district court is in session in the county in which the action was filed, whichever occurs first. A party who has paid court costs due for seeking an order from the magistrate under this subsection shall not be liable for court costs for a hearing before the district court judge scheduled and heard pursuant to an order entered by the magistrate under this subsection. Ex parte orders entered by the district court judge pursuant to this subsection shall be entered and scheduled in accordance with subsection (c) of this section.
(c2) The authority granted to authorized magistrates to award temporary child custody to pursuant subsection (c1) of this section and pursuant to G.S. 50B-3(a)(4) is granted subject to custody rules to be established by the supervising chief district judge of each judicial district.
(d) Pro Se Forms. – The clerk of superior court of each county shall provide to pro se complainants all forms which are necessary or appropriate to enable them to proceed pro se pursuant to this section. The Clerk shall provide a supply of pro se forms to authorized magistrates who shall make the forms available to complainants seeking relief under subsection (c1) of this section.
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