Legal Options




Frequently asked questions about legal issues in domestic violence and sexual assault situations
North Carolina specific information adapted from

Q. What is a restraining order (Domestic Violence Protective Order)?

A. A domestic violence protective order is an civil court order signed by a judge that tells your abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. (These orders are also commonly called DVPOs, restraining orders, or 50-B orders, for the section in the North Carolina General Statutes authorizing such orders.) A Domestic Violence Restraining Order offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both female and male victims. The order is effective for one calendar year from the date it is issued, and it can be renewed.

Q. How can a Domestic Violence Protective Order help me?

A. A DVPO can:  

  • Order the abuser not to assault, threaten, abuse, follow, harass, or interfere with you and your children in person, at work, on the telephone, or by other means;
  • Allow you to continue to live in the home where you and the abuser have lived together and order the abuser to move out and not return, no matter who owns the home or is on the lease;
  • Tell the police to remove the abuser from the home and help you to return to the home;
  • Give you possession of personal property including a car and household goods, except for the abuser's personal belongings;
  • Order the abuser to stay away from any place you request, including your school, your children's school, your work place, your friends' homes, or any place where you are seeking shelter;
  • Order the abuser not to harm your pet;
  • Give you possession of your pet;
  • Give you temporary custody of a minor child, order the abuser to pay temporary child support, and establish temporary visitation (custody, child support, and visitation only apply if the abuser is the parent of the child);
  • Order your spouse to pay temporary spousal support;
  • Order the abuser to hand over any firearms and prohibit the abuser from purchasing a firearm;
  • Order the abuser to attend an abuser's treatment program;
  • Order the abuser to pay attorney's fees. 
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.  

Q. What are the steps to get a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

A. Here are the steps for residents of Wilkes County. In other North Carolina counties, use your county's courthouse and sheriff's office; all the forms will be the same. SAFE's court advocate can furnish you all the forms, and help you fill them out.

  1. Visit the Wilkes County Clerk of Superior Court's office, (336) 651-4400. After regular business hours, go to the Magistrate's Office, (336) 651-4419.  Both offices are located in the Wilkes County Courthouse, located at 500 Courthouse Drive in Wilkesboro, N.C. Ask to file a Domestic Violence Protective Order. 

  2. Carefully complete the DVPO form (Form CV-303) by following the official instructions. If your abuser owns firearms, be sure to say so on the form. If you have children, you may wish to check the box requesting temporary custody. 

  3. If you need immediate protection, check the box on Form 303 requesting an ex parte order (Ex parte means "one side only.") and complete the ex parte/temporary order form (Form CV-304). You will explain your situation to a judge, who may issue a temporary order that will take effect immediately.  

  4. Be prepared to provide detailed information about the defendant (your abuser), including physical description, location, and work information. You'll write this information on the Identifying Information form (Form CV-312).

  5. You will need to provide a phone number and safe address for the civil summons (Form CV-317). You'll complete two copies of this form, and your abuser will get one of them.

  6. Fill out the plaintiff and defendant boxes at the top of of the Notice of Hearing form (Form CV-305).

  7. If you have children, you will also need to complete the Affidavit as to Status of Minor Child form (Form CV-609).

  8. If you file in the Clerk of Superior Court's office, you will be asked to take the forms to the Sheriff's Office in the Wilkes County Jail (adjacent to the courthouse).

  9. A hearing on the DVPO is required. Be sure to attend this hearing. If you have an ex parte order, it will expire if you don't attend the hearing. If you can't attend, be sure to request a continuance. If your abuser does not attend, the judge may grant the order or issue a continuance.

  10. At the hearing, you must be able to prove that the defendant committed acts of domestic violence against you or your children. Your SAFE advocate can help you prepare for your court appearance.  

Q. Who can get a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

A. You can seek legal protection from acts of domestic violence done to you or your minor child by someone you have had a "personal relationship" with. This means you can seek protection from: 
  • Your spouse, or ex-spouse,
  • A person of the opposite sex with whom you live or used to live,
  • Someone you are related to, including parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren, over the age of 16,
  • Someone with whom you have a child in common,
  • A current or former household member, or
  • Someone of the opposite sex whom you are dating or have dated.  

A dating relationship is one where you are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship. 

Teens under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian to file for a protection order on their behalf. File an Application and Order to Appoint Guardian Ad Litem in Action for DVPO form in order to do so.  

If you have not had a "personal relationship" with your abuser, harasser or stalker, you may be eligible for a protective order against stalking or harassment. 

Q. How much does it cost to get a Domestic Violence Protective Order? 

A. Nothing. There is no fee to file a DVPO. 

Q. Do I need an attorney to get a Domestic Violence Protective Order? 

A. No. You don’t need an attorney to file for a DVPO. You don’t need an attorney at the full court hearing either, but you may want one, especially if you think the defendant (your abuser) will have one. You may request that an advocate accompany you to court. 

Q. What if I have to miss work to get a Domestic Violence Protective Order? 

A. Your employer can't fire you, demote you, deny you a promotion or discipline you if you have to miss work to file or attend hearings for a DVPO.  Be sure to follow your employer's time-off policy, including providing advanced notice, unless an emergency prevents you from doing so. 

Q. Can I file a Domestic Violence Protective Order against my same-sex partner?

A. Yes, if you are living with or have lived with your partner in the past (legally called “household member”). While people in heterosexual relationships can get a DVPO regardless if they are living together or in a dating relationship, same-sex couples must be living together or have lived together in the past to get the same protection. 

Q. I'm a teen? Can I get a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

A. Yes, but you will need an adult to help you. Teen victims follow the same process adults do, and teen victims in North Carolina can get orders against dating partners. If you don't want your parent to help you, you may be able to have another adult help you with the process. If your abuser goes to the same school you do, be sure to ask the court to address school issues in the restraining order. 

Q. Can a pet be included in a Domestic Violence Protective Order? 

A. Yes. If you have concerns for your pet’s safety, you can ask a judge to order the abuser not to hurt the pet as part of your 50B order.  If the abuser is keeping you from your pet or you worry that the abuser may take the pet with him, you can also ask that you be the one to keep the pet. This remedy is available in temporary and final DVPOs.  

Q. What if my abuser has a gun? 

A. It is illegal under federal law for your abuser to buy or possess a gun if you have a current DVPO from a court against your abuser, or if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor. Be sure to ask the judge to specifically write in your order that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. The judge will require your abuser to give any guns to law enforcement, or require law enforcement to go to the abuser's house and get them.  

Q. How do I prepare for the court hearing on my Domestic Violence Protective Order?

A. You will need to prove to the judge that the defendant committed acts of violence against you or your children.  Your sworn testimony is evidence.  Other forms of evidence include: 

  • Witnesses. These could include friends, family members, your children, law enforcement officers and bystanders. Witnesses can be subpoenaed to appear if they are not willing to appear voluntarily.
  • Police and medical reports, including 911 calls.
  • Photographs.These could include photographs of injuries or of physical damage to your home and property.
  • Journal. It can be helpful to write down details of all abusive incidents, including time and place  

It's tough to tell your story in open court, but you'll need to do it to get the protection you need. Be specific about what your abuser said and did. Your SAFE advocate can help you get ready for your day in court.   

Q. What if I don't qualify for a Domestic Violence Protective Order? 

A.  If you do not qualify for a DVPO or if your order is not granted, you can still seek protection under the law and assistance from SAFE.

  • If you do not qualify for a DVPO because you do not have a "personal relationship" with a person who has stalked or sexually harrased you, you can file for a civil no-contact order.
  • Assault, stalking and harassment are against the law. If a crime has been committed against you, you can report it to law enforcement. If charges are pressed against the person who committed the crime, a judge may be able to order him/her to stay away from you. (A list of crimes commonly committed by abusers can be found at the bottom of this page.)

Q. I've been raped?  What now? 

A. If you do not have visible physical injuries from the assault, friends and family may think you are okay. Many people do not understand the extent of trauma endured by rape and sexual assault victims. There may also be physical injuries that you can’t see.  

The following are some suggestions of how to get the practical and emotional support you need: 

  • Get to a safe place (for example, the nearest hospital, police or sheriff's office, or someone’s home).
  • Call 911 for immediate police protection and assistance.
  • Tell someone you trust who can support and assist you.
  • You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline toll-free at (800) 656-HOPE.
  • Go to the hospital emergency room for immediate medical care even if you do not plan to report the assault.  You need medical attention to check for injury, prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, get counseling and collect evidence. Evidence collection does not require you to place a report with the police or press charges; it just preserves these options for the future.
  • For the purposes of evidence collection, avoid showering, douching, combing your hair or changing your clothes before going to the hospital.

North Carolina has a crime victim compensation program that can assist you with ongoing medical and counseling expenses and other expenses related to the assault. Your SAFE advocate can provide more information about this process and your rights as a crime victim.

Being assaulted is not your fault. If you have been assaulted, get help from someone who you trust, whether it is the police, a friend, or a relative. Don't isolate yourself because you have no reason to feel guilty, and, most importantly, don't try to ignore it. Rape, even by someone you know, is a crime and a violation of your body and your trust. Counseling and support groups can be helpful to deal with the emotional trauma caused by rape.  

Q. Do I have to report a rape or sexual assault to law enforcement immediately?

A. No. Under anonymous reporting, you can seek medical attention and evidence collection without reporting the attack to law enforcement. The integrity of the evidence is maintained while you have time to heal, consider your options and make decisions.

Q. Can I take out criminal charges against my abuser?

A. If you or other loved ones have been physically injured, threatened, raped, harassed or stalked, you may report these crimes to the police. Your abuser may be arrested and possibly put in jail.

Q. What are some common criminal charges filed against abusers?

A. In North Carolina, there is no specific crime of "domestic violence," but the abuser may have committed one or more of the following crimes. They are all misdemeanors carrying a maximum punishment of 150 days in jail. Stalking and violation of a DVPO may be felonies if certain criteria are met.

  • Assault on a Female
  • Communicating Threats
  • Assault by Pointing a Gun
  • Domestic Criminal Trespass
  • Harassing Phone Calls
  • Injury to Pregnant Woman
  • Injury to Personal Property
  • Assault Inflicting Serious Injury
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • Stalking
  • Interference with Emergency Communication
  • Violation of a Protective Order
  • Assault in the Presence of a Child
  • Sexual Battery

These are felony crimes sometimes committed by abusers:

  • Rape
  • Sexual offenses
  • Non-fatal strangulation
North Carolina specific information adapted from
For free, confidential help, please call SAFE at (336) 838-SAFE (7233).

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