Do I Need A Restraining Order?

(This article contains legal information only and is not legal advice. To form an attorney-client relationship with Sherry, you will have to complete a client intake and sign a retainer agreement. For more information on how to do that, visit the “Contact Us” section of this web page).

Frequently, my clients are unsure of whether they really want to go through the process of filing for and litigating a civil restraining order. (“Litigating” means going to court, sitting on the witness stand, and telling the judge what the defendant is doing that has caused you to file for a restraining order). After all, it’s a very uncomfortable – even downright scary – process to face your abuser in this way and to talk to a judge about the private things that have happened to you.

Many times my client is unsure of whether she is the victim of domestic violence. She may know that something is “off,” or doesn’t feel right. She may know that she is scared of someone with whom she has a personal relationship, but she is unsure of whether she is doing something to provoke that person, or whether the problems in her relationship are her fault. While there is no one set definition of behavior that can be considered domestic violence, I always ask the following questions:

Again, other behaviors not listed in the questions above can still be considered abusive, but if you answered “yes” to one or more of those questions then there is a good possibility that you are in an abusive relationship, and that you might qualify for a protective (“restraining”) order.

If my client has answered yes to some of the questions above and has tried unsuccessfully to stop the behaviors or leave the relationship in the past, I usually recommend that she obtain a civil restraining order to protect herself and so that she has a tool to stop the behavior. Knowing what could be ordered as a part of a civil restraining order under the law is also helpful to my clients in deciding whether to proceed. The list below contains the most common things that judges order in domestic violence cases. It is not a complete list, and judges often include more customized details that apply to your specific case after hearing the evidence. Keep in mind that these things are only ordered after a judge finds that you are a victim of domestic violence.

No Contact The defendant can be court-ordered to stop contacting you. In normal life, it is not a crime nor is it prohibited for one person to contact another. However, if a judge finds that you are a victim of domestic violence, she might order the defendant to stop contacting you altogether. And while a piece of paper itself may not be enough to get the defendant to stop contacting you, violating a restraining order in North Carolina is a crime. The no-contact order gives you a tool to then file criminal charges for the defendant’s continued contact if he contacts you after being ordered not to.

Prohibiting other behaviors Other behaviors can also be prohibited: the defendant can be ordered to stop following you, giving you gifts, coming to your residence or other places the defendant knows where to find you, calling your workplace, or telling other people to contact you. The defendant can also be ordered to stop threatening you or posting things about you on social media.

Temporary Custody If the judge finds that you are a victim of domestic violence and you share minor children with the defendant, the judge can award you temporary child custody. Even if the defendant gets some visitation in the order, having a court-ordered schedule is often a powerful tool to reduce harassment and reduce the amount of contact between you and defendant. The judge can also put protections in place for you so that exchanging the children can be done safely – for example, in a public place or using a third party.

Surrender of Firearms If the judge finds that you are the victim of domestic violence and that the defendant has firearms or other weapons, the judge may order that the defendant surrender those firearms to the sheriff. It is also possible for a judge to order that a defendant cannot get a new permit to obtain or possess firearms.

Possession of a car or residence If a judge finds that you are a victim of domestic violence, it is possible to get temporary possession of a residence or vehicle.

Again, the items listed above are not a complete list of what may be ordered, and not all of them may apply to your situation. If you need more information or want to schedule a consultation with Sherry, visit the contact us section of our website.


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