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The No-Contact Order and Harassment

North Carolina’s statutes include a provision, chapter 50B, for an individual who is in a personal relationship to apply for a protective order. The name given is domestic violence protective order, and it is an Order of the court that accomplishes three things; the defendant must avoid certain acts, they must avoid specific locations (such as a the plaintiff’s home), and awards temporary custody of minor children to the nonoffending party. However, 50B actions are only applicable to parties that are in a personal relationship. That means spouses and former spouses, dating partners, current and former household members, parents, and a few more categories. The rule is that the parties share a personal history.

But NC statutes also provide for an action under chapter 50C: the no-contact order. It does not require the personal relationship that the 50B requires. In the family law context, this means that a belligerent new romantic partner could be a party to a 50C action. But the no-contact 50C has two specific categories into which the unlawful conduct of the defendant must fall: one is nonconsensual sexual conduct, and the other is stalking. The statute defines stalking as when the accused follows or harasses a person on more than one occasion, and does so intending to place that person or their close associates in reasonable fear and to cause that person to suffer substantial emotional distress through fear. (Harassment is defined as “knowing conduct directed at a person to torment, terrorize, or terrify that person without legitimate purpose”)

Types of relief that a 50C can grant include ordering that a defendant may not visit or interfere with the applicant; must cease stalking and/or harassment; must cut off contact by electronic means, whether that is phone, mail, email, or text; and ordering that the defendant cannot be present around specified locations if the applicant would be present. I will note that there are a lot of factors at play in harassment, and intent is significant in a 50C action. It is often the intent that directly affects whether a 50C is granted. While sometimes intent can be inferred from the acts committed, our courts are required to find that a specific intent existed in each 50C order. Given that these orders can be extended for quite some time, 50C cases can become complex, so contact an attorney if you are facing, or considering, a 50C.