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Ex-Parte Domestic Violence Orders

As we proceed through the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, domestic violence incidents have increased in North Carolina. Isolation and lockdown likely have exacerbated conditions that may have already been present in a rocky relationship. Financial woes and job losses have only added to the stress. Domestic violence and violence against intimate partners have been on the rise. Here, we will briefly discuss how the Court can grant emergency relief for the victims of domestic violence.

In North Carolina, an ex-parte emergency order can be granted if it appears to the Court that facts show that the aggrieved party or a minor child is in danger. Such an order is by nature predictive in the sense that it can prevent future acts. If granted, these orders can often force the aggressor to leave the shared residence, give up possession of a motor vehicle, and/or require the surrender of firearms, permits, and ammunition to the local sheriff.

What facts can one show to the Court to issue an Order of Protection? Specific facts that touch upon the recency and severity of an aggressor’s past acts can be used to show that the applicant is in danger of domestic violence. The facts one includes in the filing should be specific to show the type of behavior exhibited as well as the date. Many acts can be considered by a judge when deciding whether or not to issue an ex-parte order. Some things that were deemed sufficient in totality include: destroying or concealing a cell phone, acts of recent violence, chasing, heckling and threats.

A Court may also order temporary child custody if it finds a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury or sexual abuse. Note that it does not require proof of actual injury or abuse, only substantial risk. In the order, the defendant may be ordered to stay away from the child; return the child to a proper parent/custodian; have visitation if the Court determines that visitation is in the child’s best interests; and other directions to ensure the well-being of the child.

Our laws specify that while the ex-parte order for protection can be issued without the defendant present, justice requires that a full hearing be held within 10 days of the issuance of the Order, or within seven from when the defendant is served, whichever comes later. During Covid-19, you may have heard that there have been court closures. However, most courts, including those in Guilford County, have remained open for ex-parte orders and the return hearings. At the return hearing, the Court has the opportunity to issue a Domestic Violence Protective Order that can last a full year. For more information, contact an experienced family law attorney.