North Carolina’s 50B statute governs civil domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs). Recently, the legislature made some important updates to the statute. These changes went into effect on December 1, 2019 and should help victims of domestic violence by providing clarity to a few areas of the statute.
The biggest change affects defendants who are ordered to attend an abuser treatment program in the DVPO. Prior to the update, there wasn’t a clear mechanism in place to make sure the defendant completed the program. Now, the change makes it clear the defendant must start an abuser treatment program within 60 days of the entry of the DVPO. At the time the DVPO is entered, the court should set a date and time for a review hearing to make sure the defendant starts the program.
The defendant doesn’t have to wait until the review hearing to show proof of compliance. Any time after the entry of the DVPO and before the review hearing, the defendant can give the court a written statement from an abuser treatment program that shows the defendant is enrolled and regularly attending the program. If the defendant does provide proof, the clerk of court will remove the review hearing from the court calendar and notify both the plaintiff and the defendant that neither has to attend.
The update doesn’t say what will happen if the defendant doesn’t start the abuser treatment program within 60 days. However, it’s possible the court could decide to start a criminal or civil contempt proceeding if the court has probable cause to believe the defendant willfully violated the order. Additionally, the plaintiff could initiate criminal proceedings for violating the DVPO. Lastly, the plaintiff could file a motion to modify the DVPO based on the violation.
The second change to the statue makes it clear when DVPOs expire. Prior to the update, the statute didn’t make it clear when DVPOs expired which caused confusion between the parties and law enforcement. Now, unless stated otherwise in the order, any DVPO entered on or after December 1, 2019 will expire at 11:59 pm on the expiration date. So if the defendant tries to contact the plaintiff at 11:50 pm the night the DVPO is set to expire, law enforcement should consider that a violation of the protective order.
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Finally, the update changes N.C.G.S. 50B-7 to state that any subsequent court order will supersede “similar provisions in protective orders issued pursuant to this Chapter.” This means provisions contained in a court order entered after the DVPO in question will trump the DVPO, if they are similar to provisions contained in the DVPO. For example, say a judge enters a DVPO on January 30th that is good for one year, and it orders the defendant to stay at least 100 yards away from the plaintiff. Then, on July 1st, a temporary custody order is entered that allows the defendant to be within 100 yards of the plaintiff. The custody order would be the one that controls. After July 1st, the defendant wouldn’t be in violation of the DVPO if he is within 100 yards of the plaintiff.
North Carolina takes domestic violence very seriously. If there are issues of domestic violence in your legal case, you should know your rights and have an effective advocate at your side. Contact us to speak with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys to schedule a consultation.