Elderly people facing abuse can seek a protective order to end the abuse. Though many people commonly use the term “restraining order,” in North Carolina the order is technically called a Domestic Violence Protective Order or a Civil No-Contact Order.
While protective orders have traditionally been used to prevent domestic or familial violence, these same orders can protect elderly people from abuse, too. For example, a Domestic Violence Protective Order would protect an elderly person from abusive family members who have made verbal or physical threats against the elderly person in an attempt to obtain money from the elderly person. Often, in these situations, the elderly person, out of fear, gives money to these family members to avoid the continued threats. A Domestic Violence Protective Order could prevent the family members from contacting the elderly person. In another example, a Civil No-Contact Order could prevent a neighbor or other unrelated person from harassing an elderly person with repeated telephone calls or other unwanted contacts that cause fear or emotional distress.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders
If an elderly person has a personal relationship with the abuser, then the elderly person can seek a Domestic Violence Protective Order, also known as a “50B order” or “DVPO.” These kinds of personal relationships include a spouse, significant other, children, grandchildren, or family members.
Under North Carolina’s Chapter 50B laws, a protective order may be granted if there is a finding of domestic violence. “Domestic violence” includes: (1) attempting or causing bodily injury, (2) creating fear of imminent serious bodily injury, (3) continued harassment that rises to a level sufficient to inflict substantial emotional distress, or (4) sexual offenses.
There are two types of DVPOs in North Carolina: (1) an ex parte (temporary protective order), and (2) a DVPO, lasting one year or longer. A temporary protective order can be issued immediately and without the accused present. A temporary protective order lasts 10 days and serves as protection until there is a hearing for the longer-term DVPO. To get a one-year DVPO, both parties are required to appear at a hearing. At hearing, the Plaintiff/victim must prove his or her case with evidence and witnesses, and the Defendant/accused has the opportunity to offer evidence to defend against the allegations. At the end of the hearing, a judge will decide whether to issue a permanent DVPO, lasting one year, or to dismiss the complaint.
Once granted, a DVPO can require that the abuser move out of the elderly person’s home or pay for other housing for the elderly person. These orders can prevent abusers from engaging in certain actions, such as threatening the victim, coming within a certain distance of the victim, or purchasing a firearm.
Civil No-Contact Orders
If an elderly person does not have a personal relationship with the abuser, such as an acquaintance, neighbor, co-worker, or stranger, the elderly person can file for a Civil No-Contact Order, or “50C order.”
Under North Carolina’s Chapter 50C laws, a protective order can be issued if a person is being stalked or harassed. These Civil No-Contact Orders can be temporary (to provide immediate relief) or permanent (lasting one year). Stalking is generally when someone repeatedly follows or harasses another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for their safety or their immediate family’s safety or to cause emotional distress. Once granted, these 50C orders can require the abuser to avoid contact with the victim and stay away from places where the victim will be.
The process for obtaining a restraining order
- Obtain the necessary forms from the county courthouse. Ask the clerk for a form for a restraining order or DVPO.
- Complete the complaint with specific facts, concrete details, and dates. There are no fees for filing for a DVPO.
- If there is a fear of immediate danger, seek an ex parte or temporary restraining order, which lasts 10 days until a hearing is held.
- Complete a summons so that the Sheriff can serve the abuser.
- Deliver all of the forms and civil summons to the local Sheriff’s department. Someone at the Sheriff’s department will serve the Defendant with the summons, complaint, notice of hearing, and ex parte order if it was granted.
- Attend the hearing and present evidence.
North Carolina protective order laws allow for a one-year period under a protective order, which may be renewed for an additional year. Violation of a protective order is penalized as a misdemeanor.
An attorney is not required to seek a protective order. However, having an experienced elder law attorney can make the process much easier and will protect the elderly person’s legal rights.