(Article premised on the North Carolina General Statutes 50B1- 50B9)
Domestic violence is growing problem that often goes unreported. From the outside looking in, it is easy to ask “why don’t victims of domestic violence contact the authorities,” but as the victim, it is a difficult decision to make. The two issues often considered by victims are “what can the court do to help me?” and “court takes too long, it isn’t worth it.” Because victims do not know the truth behind these worries, it dissuades them from pursuing legal action. I am hopeful that this blog will clear up some of those questions or concerns, and, if you are a victim, encourage you to speak out against your aggressor.
Let’s start with the first question, “what can the court do to help me?” Well, if you decide to pursue court action, you are asking the judge to grant something called a Domestic Violence Protective Order (regularly referred to as a DVPO). A DVPO is an order from the court that instructs the defendant (the person that you are bringing to court) to have no further communications or associations with you for up to twelve months. Twelve months is the common time period for a DVPO; it is rare to have anything less approved by the court.
This leads us to our next question. If the court can do something about it, then why does it go unreported? Well, often times, the victims are afraid of their aggressor and they do not want the aggressor to retaliate before their matter can be heard before the court. This fear or worry comes with a common and perfectly justified assumption: “going to court takes too long.” While this assumption is true for most court matters, it is untrue of domestic violence.
Why is domestic violence court so much different? Well, it has to do with the timing of these proceedings. These cases are heard fairly quickly after an action is filed. After the act of domestic violence occurs, you can petition the court to have a temporary ex parte hearing. This is when the magistrate will hear your side of the story and make an initial determination as to whether they think you need immediate temporary protection by issuing an ex parte order. The magistrate may grant or deny the request for an ex parte order, but regardless of whether or not it was granted or denied, there will be a hearing before a judge to determine whether or not a permanent order is necessary.
If it is granted, then the temporary order expires within 10 days from the date of issuance. This means a permanent hearing will be scheduled and likely heard within those 10 days. If the emergency ex parte order is denied, then the hearing will be scheduled within 10 days of serving the defending party. However, denial of the temporary order does not necessarily mean that the permanent order will get denied. The judge at the permanent DVPO hearing will still listen to all of the facts to determine whether or not a permanent order is necessary.
As you can see, there are measures that can be taken if you are the victim of domestic violence. It is very important that you raise your voice and speak up against people who have harmed you so they do not continue their behavior and harm others. Please look out for more blogs over the next few weeks about more insight into domestic violence. Some future topics include: As a plaintiff, when should I hire an attorney? Help! I am the defendant! These allegations are totally false or not as they seem! Can I overcome this? What happens with child custody? What happens when a defendant violates the order? As always, thank you for reading.