Your Guide to Filing an Effective Restraining Order in North Carolina

There are ways to protect yourself when your safety is threatened. If you are being subjected to verbal, physical, or sexual abuse from a spouse, parent, child, dating partner, or acquaintance, you can start the steps to stop it by filing a restraining order, also called a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) or a Civil No-Contact Order. This initiates the process that can hold a violator in contempt of court when he/she continues threatening actions toward you. 

When you want to file a restraining order, even though you can file for a domestic violence protective order on your own, having an experienced attorney working with you, like those at The Doyle Law Offices P.A., can make the process easier. Our experienced team can ensure the proper paperwork is filled out correctly, answer your questions, and guide you through the process of how to file a restraining order. If you are considering getting a restraining order, here we explain the process and the criteria that must be met to be granted such an order as well as requirements for who can file a restraining order. Read further for guidance on how to file a restraining order.

A woman learns how to file a restraining order by filing out an initial form

Restraining Order Defined

A restraining order is a civil court order that directs one person not to harm or harass another person. These orders are enforced by police officers or other law enforcement professionals. Violating a restraining order is a crime that can lead to arrest, fines, and jail time. Before we share how to file a restraining order, let's cover the primary aspects such an order can do.

A restraining order can accomplish several things, such as:

  • Make someone stay a certain distance from you, your residence, and your place of work
  • Require your abuser to undergo counseling
  • Make your abuser turn in any firearms
  • Award you temporary legal and physical custody of any shared children
  • Require the person, if he/she supports you financially, to pay temporary alimony and child support

Who Can File for a Restraining Order?

Anyone who lives in North Carolina can file for a restraining order, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. 

The Type of Relationship You Need to Have with the Perpetrator to File

You can file for a DVPO against anyone with whom you have one of these personal relationships:

  • Spouse
  • Ex-spouse
  • A person who currently or previously lived with you or in the same household as you
  • A person with whom you have a child
  • A person with whom you have had a dating relationship
  • Parent, child, grandparent, or grandchild

A DVPO does the following: 

  • Requires that the abuser moves out of your joint home or pay for other housing for you
  • Gives you temporary custody of your children and pets, as well as require temporary child support and spousal support
  • Prevents your abuser from engaging in certain actions, such as threatening you, coming within a certain distance of you, or purchasing a firearm
  • Can stipulate that the abuser undergo counseling and treatment

A judge may also order the abuser to pay your attorney’s fees.

With No Qualifying Relationship With the Perpetrator

If you are a victim of sexual assault or stalking and do not have a personal relationship that qualifies for a DVPO, you can file for a no-contact order, often called a “50C order,” against the perpetrator. The process to get a 50C order is similar to the process for getting a DVPO. The main difference between the two orders is that police will not arrest a defendant for violating a 50C order. Instead, a 50C order can be enforced by the judge by holding the defendant in contempt of court.

If You Need a Protective Order Quickly

If you need to get a protective order quickly, you can get a temporary order, called an ex parte order, by filling out a complaint. This order can last up to 10 days.

The Proof You Need

When filing a restraining order, you will need proof of two things, whether it is a DVPO or a 50C.

  • That abuse or harassment has occurred at least once
  • That there is a threat of further abuse or harassment

The Kinds of Domestic Violence that Qualify for a Restraining Order

To get a DVPO you must show that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence as defined by North Carolina law. A judge can give a DVPO if the defendant has intentionally committed one of these acts against you or a child in your custody:

  • Causing or attempting to cause physical injury
  • Placing in fear of “imminent serious bodily injury” (for example, by pointing a gun)
  • Continued harassment by committing at least two wrongful acts against the plaintiff with no legitimate purpose, causing “substantial emotional distress” (for example, by calling 50 times per day)
  • Sexual assault

How to File a Restraining Order

From obtaining the correct forms to attending the hearing, attorneys from The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. will now explain how to file a restraining order that's effective and helpful.

The process of filing for a DVPO or a Civil No-Contact Order is comprised of five steps. If you need help at any point in this process, see our attorneys at The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. for expert assistance. Here is how to file a restraining order.

1. Go to the Courthouse and Obtain the Forms You Need

Go to the courthouse for your county and see the clerk of civil court or the magistrate. Let them know you are filing a restraining order. You can also tell the office that you need to file for an emergency ex parte temporary protective order at this time. 

Getting An Ex Parte Temporary Order

An ex parte temporary restraining order means that you can obtain this order immediately and not require the abuser to be present for a hearing. You request this order by checking a box on the complaint form. You then go before a judge and explain why you or your children are in immediate danger and why the order is needed. If there is not a judge available that day, you can see the judge on the next day when the court is in session. This is an emergency order that takes effect immediately and lasts ten days. You should keep an ex parte temporary order with you at all times. Leave copies with your employer, your child’s school or daycare, and everywhere you or your children can be found during a normal day.

2. Complete the Complaint in Detail - Sign When You are Before a Notary Public or Clerk of Court

This is a civil complaint with you as the Plaintiff and the abuser as the Defendant. Provide a brief but complete summary of the most recent abuse you have suffered. For instance, if you were grabbed, punched, kicked, or threatened with violent gestures, you would state this specifically and provide dates when it happened. You will also want to state if the abuser owns or has any firearms. The objective is to give a clear and concrete picture of the abuse to the judge who will decide your case. Let the judge know the relief you are seeking. For instance, if children are involved, make sure to request temporary custody.

Do not sign the complaint until you are before a Notary Public or Clerk of Court.

3. Fill out the Summons and Help the Sheriff’s Office Identify Your Abuser

Your abuser will need to be served a civil summons to appear in court. You will need to provide the sheriff with the abuser’s name, address, and other contact information. The county sheriff’s office serves the complaint and summons on the abuser, as well as the notice of hearing and a copy of the ex parte temporary protective order. Because the sheriff’s office serves the abuser, you don’t need to have contact with him/her. If the sheriff’s office can’t serve the abuser on time, your hearing will be rescheduled.

This information can help identify the abuser to the sheriff’s officer:

  • Physical characteristics such as height, weight, race, hair color, eye color
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social security number
  • Employment address

4. Attend the Hearing

When you file the complaint and summons, you’ll have to attend a hearing regarding your protective order. You will be given a date and time for the hearing on your protective order. This will take place within 10 days of filing your complaint. Your abuser will also receive a notice about the hearing.

While you must attend a hearing, your abuser has the right to attend. If they don’t attend, the hearing may proceed or it can be rescheduled. During the hearing, you’ll have to prove that the abuser has committed an act of domestic violence, stalking, or nonconsensual sexual contact. If you fail to attend the hearing, your ex-parte order will expire. If you still want to pursue a restraining order, you will need to file a new complaint and summons.

5. Extend or Renew the Order (If Needed)

Now that you're aware how to file a restraining order, you may find it necessary to extend or renew it. If so, it’s best to have an attorney representing you at the hearing to help your case go smoothly. A protective order lasts for one year from when it is granted. You can ask for an extension or renewal before the protective order expires. Follow steps 1 - 4 above.

File a Restraining Order with The Doyle Law Offices, P.A.

If you want more information on how to file a restraining order, The Doyle Law Offices can help you navigate this difficult time. Attorney Hank Doyle has been practicing law in Cary and Wake Forest since 1995 and is available to set up a consultation to help you get started. From our two locations, Cary and Wake Forest, we can serve the greater Raleigh area, Cary, and Wake Forest. Call us today at  (984) 235-1067 or fill out the form below to get started. We'll set up a consultation and guide you on how to file a restraining order and get your life back on track.