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Domestic Violence Protection Order

In North Carolina, restraining orders are called “domestic violence protective orders,” or DVPOs for short. These types of orders are suitable in cases of violence, threats, or harassment between people who have a “personal relationship” with one another. That is: current or former spouses, persons of the opposite sex* who have currently or have previously lived together, parents or grandparents, persons that have a child in common, current or former household members (i.e. roommates), or persons of the opposite sex* who are currently or have previously been in a dating relationship.

DVPOs are appropriate in cases where the perpetrator has:

  1. Attempted to cause or has intentionally caused bodily injury; or
  2. Placed the person seeking the DVPO or a member of that person’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
  3. Placed the person seeking the DVPO or a member of that person’s family or household in fear of continued harassment that causes substantial emotional distress; or
  4. Committed sexual assault or rape.

There are two stages to obtaining a DVPO. As soon as the complaint is filed, a judge reviews the facts of the complaint and determines if a temporary DVPO is appropriate. If the judge grants the temporary order, a return hearing will be set within 10 days. In the intervening time between the temporary order being granted and the return hearing, a “temporary” DVPO is in place restraining the defendant from certain actions. Alternatively, the judge may deny the “temporary” order but still set a return hearing. During that time, there is no protection in place for the person who asked for the order.

Before the return hearing, the defendant will need to get served with the Complaint and Temporary Order so that s/he can appear at the return hearing and defend him/herself at that hearing. At the return hearing, the judge will either issue a “permanent” order, which may be valid for up to one year, or deny the relief sought and dissolve the temporary order that was in effect up until then.

A DVPO issued by a court (whether temporary or permanent) directs the defendant to stay away from or not contact the party who obtains a DVPO. Violation of this order may lead to arrest. A person seeking a DVPO may also request possession of the parties’ residence, possession of a vehicle, and/or temporary custody of the parties’ children.

*At this time the law in NC is these parties must be of the opposite sex. There is current litigation to allow same-sex couples to obtain the same protections.


A civil no contact order is similar to a DVPO but differs in some key respects. Most notably, the “personal relationship” between the parties is not required. Notably, civil no contract orders are also limited to cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and stalking. These types of orders are frequently used in cases of roommates or neighbors; however, these may also be useful in cases of online dating where parties may not quite have formed a “dating” relationship yet but one person engages in stalking and harassment type of behavior.

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