Defending Against a North Carolina Domestic Violence Protective Order / DVPO
March 22nd, 2018
If a North Carolina court issues a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) against you, the court order must be taken very seriously. Failing to comply with the order can result in criminal charges being filed against you.
The proceedings may also have immediate and long-term negative impacts on your life that reach far beyond the order itself. To protect your rights, you should abide by the order and retain an experienced North Carolina family and domestic law attorney to defend you in the proceedings.
Court Process for Domestic Violence Protective Orders
A North Carolina statute governs court issuance of DVPOs, which are also referred to as restraining orders. A court can issue a temporary order based solely on a complaint, without giving you an opportunity to defend yourself. If that happens, a hearing will be held shortly after the temporary order has been issued. At the hearing, the court will determine whether a permanent order should be issued. You will receive notice of the hearing and have the opportunity to present your evidence before the court decides the case.
If a DVPO is issued, it can affect your life in many ways. The immediate impact can involve prohibiting you from:
- Continuing to live at your residence;
- Contacting the complainant and your minor children through any means;
- Going to the complainant’s place of work or your children’s school.
You can also lose custody of your children while a DVPO is in effect. Additionally, the order can affect divorce proceedings, including equitable distribution of property. Longer term, having a DVPO issued against you can affect your employment and housing opportunities, as well as your ability to get credit.
The court can only take into account your side of the story if you attend the hearing. If you are named as the defendant in a domestic violence protective order, you should retain legal counsel as soon as you receive notice of the order. To effectively defend yourself, you should be represented by an experienced attorney at the hearing.
What To Do If You Are Served With a DVPO
If you are served with a DVPO, the first — and most important — step you should take is to comply with the order. That means complying with every condition or requirement. Violating a restraining order can lead to arrest and serious criminal charges, which can result in up to 150 days in jail. You must respect the law and the order immediately. You should defend against the order in court through your legal counsel, not by disobeying the terms of it.
The next step is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Compiling and presenting evidence on your behalf requires experienced legal counsel who not only knows the law and the elements that need to be proven but also knows how to gather and present evidence in court. Your attorney will represent you at the hearing and defend you against the charges in the order.
There are specific legal requirements that must be met to justify a permanent restraining order. Your attorney will work with you to gather evidence on your behalf to disprove those elements. The acts required to constitute domestic violence generally include:
- Attempting or intending to cause serious bodily injury to the complainant or a minor child;
- Placing the complainant in fear of imminent seriously bodily injury or harassment that constitutes emotional distress;
- Committing other violent illegal acts toward a person with whom you have a personal relationship.
Disproving the allegations in court is the only way to counter a DVPO. Evidence at the hearing can include medical records, photographs, statements of witnesses, records of arrest, and any other relevant documents or testimony.
Finally, attending the hearing is extremely important. If you do not attend, the court may issue a permanent order without considering the facts on your side. Then, you are in an even more difficult situation and subject to the long term ramifications of a DVPO.
Reasons to Defend Against a DVPO
The reasons for defending against a DVPO go far beyond simply fighting against the restrictions in the order. If you do not appear at the hearing on the order to defend against the charges, the court likely will issue a permanent order.
The court has broad discretion in setting the terms of a permanent order. The circumstances in each case are always unique. The conditions in the order will reflect the specific situation in the case. In addition to including terms that prohibit conduct constituting domestic violence, the court has the authority to:
- Order eviction of the defendant from the household or residence;
- Require the defendant to find suitable alternative housing for the complainant and minor children;
- Determine who has possession of the family residence;
- Award custody of children for a limited term;
- Establish visitation conditions and rights while the order is in effect;
- Order payment of child and spousal support;
- Allocate possession of personal property, including pets;
- Require the defendant to attend and complete an approved treatment program;
- Prohibit the defendant from purchasing a firearm for a specific period of time;
- Award attorney’s fees;
- Impose any other conditions or restrictions the court considers necessary to protect the complainant or a child.
Due to the court’s broad authority to address these and other matters in a Domestic Violence Protective Order, you should confer with an attorney to protect your rights and avoid facing even more serious legal problems in the future.
You can read more about the North Carolina law on DVPOs in an article written by our domestic law attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm: Understanding Domestic Violence Protective Orders and Restraining Orders in North Carolina.
Our Experienced Domestic Law Attorneys Can Defend You Against a DVPO
If you are facing a DVPO or restraining order, you need to take steps to ensure that your rights are protected. Our experienced domestic law attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm are here to help.
With offices in Elizabeth City and Moyock, we serve clients throughout northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks. Contact us today at 252-338-4151 to schedule a consultation.