Temporary Restraining Orders and Preliminary Injunctions



If you remember anything about restraining orders in North Carolina, remember these two things: (1) Not fighting a restraining order can result in you later being charged with a criminal offense or being held in contempt of court resulting in imprisonment; and (2) Because a restraining order is a civil, not criminal, action, the burden of proof is much lesser than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The adverse party only has to show the court that it is “more likely than not” that the required things occurred.

There are two types of restraining orders in North Carolina: (1) a domestic violence protective order (“DVPO”), nicknamed “50B” for the statutes that govern it, and (2) a “50C,” or civil protective order. Regardless of the type, if you have been served with papers stating someone has filed for one against you, it is incredibly important to understand the gravity of the situation, inform yourself and engage the assistance of counsel. Our experienced attorneys at Plumides, Romano & Johnson are seasoned in defending against both types of restraining order (as well as any accompanying criminal charges) and will aggressively fight to defend your rights.


What are the requirements for a DVPO?

The first thing the person filing for the protective order (“plaintiff”) must show is that they have what qualifies as a “domestic” relationship with the person they’re filing against (“defendant). This relationship is defined as: currently or formerly having a dating relationship (the Court of Appeals has ruled that this includes same-sex relationships); being spouses or former spouses; having a child together; currently or formerly having lived together in the same household; or being parent and child or grandparent and grandchild.

Secondly, the plaintiff must show that there is a danger of an act of “domestic violence” occurring (for the temporary hearing) or that an act of domestic violence has occurred (for the “permanent” hearing.

What is the temporary hearing?

A plaintiff can first seek an emergency, temporary DVPO, which is also called an “ex parte” order. Ex parte means there is only one party, the plaintiff, before the judge—the defendant does not have the right to be at this hearing.

In order to receive a temporary DVPO, the plaintiff must show that there is a danger of domestic violence acts at the time they filed their petition.

By law, the court has to give the plaintiff a hearing either by the end of the next day the district court is in session, or within the next 72 hours, whichever comes earlier.

The court can also order temporary child custody arrangements at ex parte hearings.



If the plaintiff loses the temporary hearing, will it even go to a permanent hearing?

Yes. Because each hearing has a different issue that must be shown (danger of an act occurring versus the act having already occurred), the case will still have a permanent hearing.

Does “permanent” actually mean permanent?

In many cases, if the plaintiff wins the “permanent” hearing, the court will issue the restraining order for the maximum duration of one year. The plaintiff can later file to renew that order prior to its expiration for up to two years—but there is no limit on how many times a plaintiff can successfully renew a DVPO. To renew, the court must simply find that there is “good cause” for doing so.

What counts as “domestic violence”?

Domestic violence is defined as being at least one of the following:

• Intentionally causing bodily injury, or attempting to do so;

• Putting the plaintiff, or a member of the plaintiff’s family or household, in fear of either immediate serious bodily injury, or continued “harassment,” as that term is defined in North Carolina’s stalking law, N.C.G.S. § 14-277.3A, to the point that this fear inflicts substantial emotional distress:

o “Harassment” is defined by North Carolina’s stalking law as knowing conduct that is directed at a specific person, including communications that are printed, written, verbally made, emailed etc., that have no legitimate purpose and terrify, torment or terrorize that person.

• Or committing any one of the acts defined in N.C.G.S.§27.21 through N.C.G.S.§ 27.33 (sex offenses).

What are potential consequences of my losing a DVPO hearing?

If the filing party succeeds in getting a DVPO against you, and they later allege that you violated it (which can include contacting them at all), you can be arrested and charged with violation of a DVPO, which is a Class A1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 150 days in jail. That means if you try to represent yourself at the protective order hearing and lose, or if you just don’t show up to court and have a default order issued against you, you are setting yourself up to the possibility of repeated criminal charges being brought against you.

You can also be held in contempt of court for violation of a protective order, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

Other actions the court can take are ordering that you turn any firearms you own into law enforcement; order you evicted from the residence you share with the plaintiff; order that you have no contact with the plaintiff whatsoever; and order you to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, if applicable.

If I win, can I ask the court to make the plaintiff pay MY attorney’s fees? Yes.

Restraining orders

What are the requirements for a 50C?

To prevail on a 50C, or civil no-contact restraining order, the court must simply find that the alleged victim (plaintiff) has “suffered unlawful conduct” committed by the defendant. Unlawful conduct is defined in Chapter 50C as stalking, or any single instance of nonconsensual sexual conduct. The plaintiff-defendant relationship can be any relationship not included in the definition of a “domestic” relationship as discussed above.


Do 50Cs have temporary hearings too?

Yes. Like 50Bs, 50C plaintiffs have the right to an emergency/temporary hearing before the full-on “permanent” hearing. To receive a temporary order, the plaintiff must show, with specific facts articulated in their petition, that they will suffer immediate damage, loss or injury before the defendant’s side of things can be heard at the permanent hearing. “Permanent” orders are limited to the duration of one year but can be renewed for “good cause.”

What are potential consequences of my losing a 50C hearing?

Just as with a 50B, if you do not bother showing up to court for the 50C hearing, the court will only hear the plaintiff’s side of the story and may very well issue a default (permanent) judgment against you. Likewise, if you appear but represent yourself and are unable to adequately defend yourself, the court will issue the permanent order. The court can order that you not abuse, harass, or otherwise contact the plaintiff, or be in the plaintiff’s vicinity. The court can also order that you pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, if any

In addition, if you lose the permanent hearing and the plaintiff files a Motion to Show Cause, and court finds that you have violated the 50C order, it can order that you be held in contempt of court. In this context, contempt of court is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

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