What is a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

The Supreme Court recently upheld the law prohibiting domestic abusers from having guns. Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPOs) are at the center of this ruling.  In this blog, we'll breakdown what DVPOs can do here in North Carolina with Safe Alliance's Chief Legal Officer Suzi Canali.

What is a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

Also known as a restraining order or 50B order, a Domestic Violence Protective Order is a court order that protects victims of domestic violence from their abusers.  The DVPO criminalizes any contact with the survivor.  That contact does not have to be abusive, even texts or voicemails asking, "can we talk?" is in violation of the order. This is critical because it allows the survivor to break free from the abuser and the cycle of abuse.

Safe Alliance's Chief Legal Officer Suzi Canali tells clients, "A DVPO is not a magic force field that will make you safe, but it is a powerful part of a safety plan."

What makes it so powerful?

1. Economic Mobility
DVPOs provide survivors with financial independence from their abuser. A DVPO can give someone possession of a residence, so they do not have to move. It also can allow them to break a lease without financial penalty if an abuser knows where they live and they feel unsafe. Additionally, DVPOs can provide someone with possession of a vehicle. This means they can drive to and from work or drop their children off at school, making them less dependent on the abuser. Finally, a DVPO can provide someone with possession of a pet, which can sometimes be a reason someone does not want to leave an abusive situation. Suzi shares, "These powerful provisions in a Domestic Violence Protective Order give a survivor and their family immediate economic mobility and an opportunity to untie themselves financially from their abuser. This is a critical first step in building a violence-free life."

2. Temporary Custody Arrangement for Children
DVPOs can outline custody arrangements for shared children until their family court date. It can prescribe when or how often visitation will occur, where the visitation will occur, and how the custody exchanges will occur. Suzi adds, "Custody exchanges are one of the most dangerous times for a survivor so having that outlined in the DVPO provides additional security for the survivor and the children." More permanent arrangements will be determined in family court, but the DVPO provides an immediate plan to help keep the family safe.

3. Safety
DVPOs create zones that criminalize where the abuser goes. These zones could include a survivor's residence or somewhere more temporary like spending the weekend at a parent's home. This helps keep a survivor safe because the abuser is prohibited from being in physical proximity.

Additionally, DVPOs prevent an abuser from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The Supreme Court solidified this protection in the recent United States v. Rahimi verdict. This offers an important safety protection because research shows a woman is five times more likely to be murdered if an abuser has access to a gun (National Library of Medicine).

4. Empowerment For Survivor
A DVPO goes through civil court and is not tied to a criminal case against the abuser. This means that a survivor doesn't have to press charges and involve law enforcement if they do not wish to. Suzi explains, "When pursing a DVPO, a survivor gets to decide how they want to move forward, which is hugely empowering." This is so significant because in their relationship with an abuser, the survivor was being controlled and did not have the ability to make their own decisions.  Survivors can also choose to renew their DVPOs if they still are fearful for their lives, even if the abuser has not violated the order.

How does someone get a DVPO?

Safe Alliance's Victim Assistance Court Program helps survivors navigate the legal process free of charge. First, advocates listen to a survivor's story and draft the legal complaint. Then, a staff attorney or pro bono attorney reviews the complaint and then it is submitted. Next, the client, accompanied by a Safe Alliance advocate, appears in a virtual court room for an emergency hearing. The abuser is not present for this hearing. After this hearing, the judge or magistrate may grant an ex parte DVPO.
From there, a hearing is scheduled for 7-10 days later. This time the abuser will be present. The judge will ask the survivor if they still want to move forward and will ask the abuser if they consent to the order. If the abuser does not consent, the judge will hold a trial to determine if the DVPO should be granted.  Safe Alliance advocates, interns and volunteers accompany clients to court, educate around what to expect in the court room, and provide emotional support. For legal representation, either our Safe Alliance attorneys or pro bono attorneys take on the cases, or we make referrals to Legal Aid or Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

To obtain a DVPO, the survivor must demonstrate that the abuser intentionally committed one of the following acts:
  1. Causing or attempting to cause physical injury
  2. Placing in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, like pointing a gun
  3. Continued harassment which causes substantial emotional distress
  4. Sexual assault

Safe Alliance's Victims Assistance Court Program is open from 8am 5 pm on Mondays Fridays and no appointment is necessary.

Tagged as DVPO, Suzi Canali, Victim Assistance Court Program.

In an emergency please dial 911

Call the Greater Charlotte Hope Line 24/7 for info on parenting, domestic violence and sexual assault 980.771.4673.

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