Your spouse moved out but won’t stop coming back to the house. At first it was for little things like picking up a box of stuff he left behind. But when he picked it up, he came while you were at work. And he didn’t tell you he was coming over beforehand. You only found out he was there because you noticed the garage door was slightly ajar and confronted him about it. You’ve asked him to return his keys, but he never gave them to you. Now he is telling you it’s still his home and he can come and go as he pleases. You’re frightened by his attitude and want to feel safe in your own home. What do you do?
We see this type of behavior a lot in our line of work. It’s not uncommon for one spouse to try to exert some control over the situation (or the other spouse) by acting this way. But even though it’s not uncommon, it should stop immediately. You deserve to have some peace of mind in your own home, free from harassing behavior.
Domestic Criminal Trespass
Domestic criminal trespass is a crime in North Carolina. Normally, it’s a class 1 misdemeanor. If the person is convicted, depending on his or her criminal record, it carries a sentence of up to 120 days in jail. However, the person will be guilty of a Class G felony if he or she is “trespassing upon property operated as a safe house or haven for victims of domestic violence and the person is armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the offense.”
The type of behavior described above likely gives rise to a charge of misdemeanor domestic criminal trespass. For a person to be convicted of domestic criminal trespass, the following has to apply:
The person charged must be:
- a current or former spouse of the occupant of the home or
- someone the occupant of the home has lived with as if married
The person charged must have been:
- forbidden to enter the premises by the lawful occupant; or
- remained on the premises after having been ordered to leave by the lawful occupant
The person charged and the occupant must be living apart.
Evidence that you and your spouse are living apart includes, but is not limited to:
- an order of separation;
- a court order directing the person charged to stay away from the occupant’s premises;
- a written or verbal agreement to live apart and the parties are living apart;
- actually living in separate residences.
It doesn’t matter if the person charged still has an ownership interest in the property. If the person moved out, he or she can’t come back on the property without your permission, if you have forbidden them to return. However, a person will not be guilty of the crime if he or she entered the premises pursuant to a court order or written separation agreement which allows the person to enter for the purpose of visiting the minor children.
What Should You Do?
- Make sure the person knows they are not allowed to come back on the property without your permission. It is required that the person be forbidden from returning to the home.
- Consider stating this in written form such as via email or text message so there is a written record.
- Don’t invite the person back to your residence after you have told them not to come back.
- Call 911 if they do come back.
- Consider taking out a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO). But be careful. The facts described above, by themselves, do not warrant filing a DVPO. You should speak with an attorney to find out if filing a DVPO is appropriate in your case.
We know it’s alarming to deal with a partner who violates personal boundaries. Contact us today to find out how you can take back control of your life.
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