Domestic Violence FAQ


Can I bring charges against my abuser?

Yes, the person abusing you could be charged for several crimes, including Domestic Criminal Trespass, Stalking, Rape or Sexual Offense, Harassing Phone Calls, or Communicating Threats.

Domestic Criminal Trespass

If you ask a former spouse or partner not to come to your home, or if you ask someone you are separated from or no longer in a relationship with to leave your home and they refuse, it is considered Domestic Criminal Trespass.


Stalking is when someone purposely follows you more than once or is near you with the intention of:

  • making you fear for your life;
  • physically harming you; or
  • causing you emotional distress.


If a person has vaginal intercourse with you against your will or by force, that person has committed rape. Rape is considered First Degree Rape if the rapist:

  • uses a dangerous weapon;
  • threatens you with a dangerous weapon;
  • is helped by others; or
  • seriously injures you.

First Degree Rape has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Other Sexual Offense

Sexual Offense is when someone forces you to participate in any sexual activity except vaginal intercourse.

Misdemeanor assault

Misdemeanor assault is when someone physically harms you or makes you afraid that they are going to hurt you. This can be if someone acts like they are going to hurt you, or attempts to hurt you. If the attacked person is a child younger than 12, or a female is attacked by a male over the age of 18, the penalty is more severe. It is called Assault on a Female.

Felony Assault

If you are attacked with a weapon that could kill you, and your attacker intends to kill or seriously injure you, it is considered a Felony Assault. The penalty for Felony Assault is more serious than a Misdemeanor.

Communicating Threats

If a person threatens to injure you or harm your property, verbally or in writing, and you believe this person would act on the threat and any reasonable person would also believe it, this is Communicating Threats.

Harassing Phone Calls

A person has committed Harassing Phone Calls if they use threatening, profane, or indecent language on the phone or your voicemail. This can also include harassing or annoying you through repeatedly calling or making untrue statements.

Can I just leave the house permanently?

You can leave the house and not come back. You can also take your children with you when you leave, unless a court orders you not to. However, you should talk to an attorney before doing this, because if you leave without good reason, your alimony situation could be impacted.

Also, if you leave, you might not be able to go back until the court officially divides the property. This can take a long time and you might not be awarded the house in the end. So, until you’ve spoken with a lawyer, you should stay in the house if possible. However, do not stay in the house if your spouse is violent. Call the police and they will help you take the needed steps to protect yourself and your children.

How can I receive emergency relief?

In the absence of an ex parte order, the court must wait either five days after providing notice to the other party or five days after service of process to the other party – whichever occurs first. In addition to waiting until the other party has sufficient notice, the moving party must believe he or she faces serious or immediate injury to himself, herself, or a minor child; the party must actually move for emergency relief; and no ex parte order shall have been entered.





How are domestic violence protective orders enforced?

By violating a domestic violence protective order, an individual can be held in contempt of court for not following the court’s order. Local law enforcement is authorized to arrest an individual if the officer has reason to believe that the person has violated a domestic violence protective order. An officer may be hesitant to act unless he witnesses the violation, the violation is readily apparent, or it is reported by a disinterested third party. Violating a protective order is a misdemeanor.



How is domestic violence defined in the Domestic Violence Act?

Domestic violence is when someone:

  • attempts to hurt you physically; or
  • actually causes physical injury.

It also includes making you afraid of “imminent serious bodily injury” by threatening to hurt you if you do not do what they want you to do. This could be something you would not usually do. This “imminence” has to do with the threat of hurting you, not actually hurting you.

How long does a domestic violence protective order last?

A protective order may terminate at the end of a fixed time period that may not exceed one year. After that one-year period, you may request a renewal of your protective order for another year. Copies of the order must be issued to each party, and it is the responsibility of you or your attorney to ensure the proper law enforcement officers receive all appropriate documents.



How frequently is domestic violence the cause of death and injury?

The most common crime in the U.S. is thought to be domestic violence. However, it is rarely reported. Statistics show that in the past 10 years, more than 50,000 women have been killed by their partners or husbands and over 25% of women treated in emergency rooms have been injured through domestic violence. This is disturbing, but becomes more so when you consider that children are often also abused in these situation. That being said, domestic violence is not unique to women. Men are also victims. Not only that, but domestic violence is not class-specific. It can happen in any socio-economic class. Because of this, domestic violence is not only more difficult to define, but also less recognized.

How can I prepare for a domestic violence trial?

You and your witnesses must be sufficiently prepared for your domestic violence trial, as preparation will be one of the keys to a successful outcome. Your testimony should be a truthful account of the fear you felt during your relationship. Supplemental evidence such as medical records, photographs, or other physical evidence can help support your testimony. During your preparations, make all evidence easy to read and see for the court on the day of your trial.

Is emotional support available for domestic violence victims?

There are many different mental health professionals who can help you. These include:

  • clinical social workers
  • counselors
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists

Some of these mental health professionals work for the government or nonprofit organizations and others have private practices. They will provide counseling to you for a fee, which, depending on your income, could be discounted. If your marriage is ending, it is very important that you and your spouse get emotional support.

What can the courts do to remedy domestic violence?

Established in 1979, the Domestic Violence Act is meant to protect men, women, and children that reside with a victim of domestic violence. This act helps to provide a fast method of separating a victim from their attacker, whether the parties are married or not.


How can the court system help me?

Typically, notice has to be given to the other person involved when you’re filing a court order. However, if your case has to do with domestic violence, you can get a court order without notice. Also, the court order can give you control of your home, car, and temporary child custody. It can also state that your abuser cannot come near you or your children.

If the court order says that your abuser cannot come near you or the children and they do it anyway, they can be arrested. Those involved must be related in one of the following ways for domestic violence to be available:

  • Spouses, current or former;
  • Those of the opposite sex who are or were in a dating relationship;
  • People who currently live together or have lived together;
  • Those who have a child together;
  • People with a parent-child relationship or grandparent-grandchild relationship, as long as the child or grandchild is younger than 16;
  • Those who are or were members of the household.

The abuser must attempt to physically hurt you, purposefully hurt you, or threaten you in such a way that you become seriously afraid that they are going to hurt you.

What can victims do to get emergency assistance?

According to Section 50B-5(a), a domestic violence victim can ask for help from the police. However, the time it takes for them to get there is only “as soon as practicable,” which means that they may not be able to come right away. Also, only call the police if you really need them or are in serious danger. If you call the police repeatedly over a 48-hour period and they don’t believe you need help immediately, they don’t have to come.

A police officer responding to a domestic violence call can do whatever he or she needs to do, within reason, to protect you. He can also give you advice on medical care, counseling, places you can stay/seek shelter, and other needs. The officer can also help you collect what personal property you might need while you’re away from home and take you to an appropriate facility. However, some counties do not allow officers to help the abused in gathering their things unless they have a temporary court order that allows them to do so.

What forms do I need for filing a domestic violence action?

While attorneys can create custom complaints, do-it-yourself forms prepared by the Administrative Office of the Courts are available with the Clerk of Superior Court. If seeking child support, child custody, or alimony, these forms should not be used because they do not provide the necessary allegations to establish a legitimate claim for custody.

What are the residency rules for filing a domestic violence action?

If you are being abused, your reason for filing or “action” falls under Chapter 50 (which covers family law causes of action). You can file a domestic violence action in North Carolina, but you have to be a resident. So, when filing, you can introduce a new action, or file a request to the judge that asks him or her to make a decision.

What is a domestic violence ex parte order?

An ex parte order can be issued where there is an immediate threat of domestic violence. An ex parte hearing must be held “within 10 days from the date of issuance of the order or within seven days from the date of service of process on the other party, whichever occurs later.” And while the order can award temporary custody of a child, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) domestic violence forms do not establish a sufficient claim for child custody; therefore, such forms should not be used if custody is the ultimate goal. This is also true for a claim for spousal support.



What are the remedies for relief from domestic violence?

The remedies available for relief from domestic violence include: giving the aggrieved party possession of the residence and excluding the other spouse from the household; evicting the party and assisting the aggrieved party in returning to the home; and requiring a party to provide alternate housing. Also, an order for spousal and child support can be issued in addition to attorney’s fees. Such an order can also grant the injured party possession of personal property. Although unlikely, a judge may also award temporary child custody as a result of domestic violence. Lastly, the court can issue a no contact order to prevent any further violence. North Carolina law states that the remedies provided are not an exclusive list.

What should be included in a domestic violence complaint?

A domestic violence complaint should include specific facts detailing the alleged acts. If your complaint includes matters other than domestic violence, it is best to separate those matters into their own causes of action.


What should I do if my spouse becomes violent?

If your spouse is violent and you are in danger, call the police immediately. When you’re safe, contact the domestic violence relief agency for your county. The police can tell you how to contact them. They can also give you advice and if you need a safe shelter, they can tell you how to get to one.

When should I seek emergency relief?

A motion for emergency relief should be filed when a victim of domestic violence believes he or she is in danger of serious and immediate harm. While a motion for emergency relief must be filed separately, the victim may use the verified complaint’s prayer for relief as a motion for emergency relief in an effort to hasten the process.


Who is protected by the Domestic Violence Act?

The Domestic Violence Act protects present and former spouses, persons related as parents and children, individuals who are dating, and those who have lived as if they were married. Under the Act, marriage is not a prerequisite to protection under the Act. According to this statute, a dating relationship is one where the parties are romantically involved over a continuous period of time. A casual acquaintance is not considered dating.

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