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Ask Carolyn: How do I Defend Myself Against a 50B Protective Order?

Dear Carolyn,

My wife keeps threatening me with a 50B.  We do argue, but I have never laid a hand on her or even threatened her.  She says in court it will be her word against mine.  Is there anything I can do to protect myself?  I don’t want to go to jail.


Carolyn answers:

Defending the innocent man in a 50B is a thorny problem, and not a bed of red roses. On these facts, you need something that turns the matter into not simply “her word against yours.” You have to proceed with extreme caution.

  1. Do not let her engage you in an argument. Walk away. Do not respond when she starts an argument.
  2. Do not argue with her. Don’t say anything; don’t even throw a paper clip. If you are angry or emotionally charged over issues, you may want to figure out with a counselor how to get control of your emotions.
  3. Wouldn’t you love to have the judge listen to a recording of her saying: “Well, it will be your word against mine”? Use a smartphone application to keep a recording device going when you are around her; some apps will record for up to 10 hours.  It is legal in North Carolina to record if you are both party to the conversation and both of you are in North Carolina.  Please note that I said you must be a party to the recorded conversation.  And,  you cannot tap the phone or leave the recorder around, or otherwise record.  You and the person you are recording must both be in North Carolina as the rules are different in other states.  Illegally recording can get you in big trouble.  If you are in doubt, check with an attorney on whether your recording plan is legal before you record.
  4. If it is bad enough to have to record what she is saying to you, you need to consider whether separation is your best solution. Let’s face it – spouses who are threatening 50B’s, especially false ones, should be on the way out.  Do you really want to be married to her?  Since there are consequences to moving out, please see a family lawyer before you move.
  5. A 50B protective order against a defendant is a serious matter for the defendant. You will likely have to surrender firearms. You will be entered by the sheriff of Guilford County into the National Crime Information Center as a person with a domestic violence protective order against him.  This can affect background checks in future employment.
  6. Information regarding the crime of assault on a female is not discussed in this answer, and the criminal charge of assault on a female may occur at the same time as a 50B complaint against you. This can send you to jail for 48 hours, or more.
  7. A domestic violence protective order (50B) against you does not send you to jail unless you violate the 50B order. So if you get a 50B against you, do not contact your wife – do not even send her a dozen red roses – that would likely be an unwelcomed contact that sends you to jail.


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This blog is an excerpt from Ask Carolyn, available on kindle.  

Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.  The column also uses hypothetical questions.  A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your unique case.  Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn.”