Domestic Violence Amid COVID-19 and How to Obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order

NBC NEWS reported on April 5, 2020 that reports of domestic violence increased in March in many cities around the country as the coronavirus pandemic spread, according to law enforcement officials — raising concerns about families’ safety as they isolate at home.  The report included the statistic that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police fielded 517 additional calls about domestic violence in March compared to the same month last year, an 18 percent jump.  This statistic is alarming in that many incidents are not reported to law enforcement officials. 

The increase in domestic violence can be attributed to “cabin fever” the stress of living in close proximity for days and weeks without much outside activity and the financial strain created by loss of jobs and business closings.

If you are a victim of Domestic Violence, the Family Law Team at Weaver, Bennett & Bland in Matthews can help you obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order.  The Order of Chief Judge of the NC Supreme Court specifically allows hearing domestic violence cases during the court closure.

First, you must file a Complaint at your local County Courthouse.  If the Courthouse is closed you may file the Complaint with the county magistrate, usually located at the county jail.  Forms for the Complaint are available at the Courthouse.  Unlike other lawsuits, there is no filing fee.  The Complaint is where you identify the perpetrator, explain the relationship that qualifies you for the DVPO and spell out the specific facts that describe the domestic violence.  The Complaint needs to be as detailed as possible.   A Court of Appeals opinion has instructed our courts to not allow any testimony regarding domestic violence at the hearing that was not in the Complaint.  You must be sure to file quickly after the incident(s).  Waiting two weeks and still sleeping in the same house as the perpetrator will give pause to the court as to whether you are in fact in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm.

Speaking with a family law lawyer prior to filling out the form is advisable because the lawyer will be able to guide you as to how to describe the incident and to make sure you understand the requirements in obtaining an Order.

After filing the Complaint, you will go before a judge to tell your tale. This will be an ex-parte proceeding (without the other party.)  If the judge believes domestic violence occurred, a DVPO will be issued.  The Order, which is temporary, will order the offender to not assault, threaten, abuse or harass you.  He/she may be ordered to stay away from your work and schools.  He/she may be evicted from the residence where you both live.  You may be granted possession of a motor vehicle and even temporary custody.

By law, there must be another hearing within 10 days of the ex-parte order, allowing time for the perpetrator to be served with the lawsuit. At that hearing you will again testify about what occurred, but this time the Defendant or his attorney may question you and the Defendant may also testify.  You and the Defendant may have witnesses testify on your behalf.  If the judge determines that acts of domestic violence occurred, a DVPO will be issued which will last for one (1) year.  Protective Orders may be renewed upon good cause if an application is filed prior to the expiration of the existing order.  It is advisable to have an attorney represent you at the “10-day hearing” in order to best present your case.

Violations of either the ex-parte order or the “permanent” order are punishable by arrest if good cause exists and the punishments of criminal contempt.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, the experienced family law attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland can assist you with advice and obtaining the DVPO.  Since domestic violence and the issuance of a DVPO often ends in separation of couples, we can also assist with attempting to resolve the issues that remain such as custody, child support, alimony and property settlement.  Weaver, Bennett & Bland is open open during this Covid-19 crisis as an essential business. However, most of our work will be done remotely via zoom or phone for the safety of our clients, staff and attorneys.

Although the vast majority of domestic violence actions are valid and necessary, we see a few cases each year where the party filing for a DVPO is simply trying to get the other party out of the house or gain an advantage in what is known as a Chapter 50 case, usually as to custody.  Our experienced family law attorneys can defend such frivolous actions.

Please contact WBB at:
704.844.1400, or online at https://wbblawyers.com