Written by Jonathan Breeden
As most Americans huddle inside their homes because of COVID-19, many North Carolina families are left to worry about their children and possibly their own safety.
North Carolina family courts play an essential role in protecting people and sorting out the most difficult of domestic situations. This includes people desperately seeking access to their children or individuals struggling to escape domestic violence, made all the worse by sudden isolation.
But families still have options. While many NC courts have closed or postponed proceedings until at least April 20th, emergency custody hearings, and domestic violence protective orders are still being heard.
If you have a pressing custody or domestic issue in or around Johnston, Harnett, or Wake County, contact Breeden Law Office. We know how serious your situation is and our skilled family law attorneys know how to work through the current hurdles to find a solution for you and your family.
The sudden school closures and orders to stay inside may have left children in the care of ill-prepared co-parents. Or, maybe a primary care-giver is now unexpectedly unemployed, and unable to care for a child properly. In more serious cases, a child with an underlying medical condition could be in a high-risk environment, and you’re worried about them getting COVID-19.
There are various situations that would warrant an emergency custody order in North Carolina, including situations that predate the coronavirus. And while you should try to work with your ex to modify your arraignment temporarily, if they refuse to engage with you, ignore medical advice, or you believe your child’s health or safety is at risk, you should contact a local North Carolina family lawyer right away.
Breeden Law Office can file new actions and motions as needed. This includes requesting Emergency Custody Orders.
An Emergency Custody or “ex parte order,” is an immediate, short-term custody order, granted by a judge under limited emergency circumstances, without hearing from the other party. The grounds for granting emergency custody are situations in which a child is at substantial risk of bodily injury, sexual abuse, or removal from North Carolina to avoid the authority of the courts. You can also request an emergency status quo order if you had a regular visitation schedule with your child but no court order and now the other parent is denying you access to the child.
Law enforcement can assist in recovering a child if an ex parte order is issued in the interim. However, a hearing must also be scheduled so that both parties have the opportunity to be heard within ten days of the ex parte order being granted.
Domestic violence includes physical violence, sexual abuse, threats, humiliation, constant criticism or name-calling, isolating the victim from others, or limiting access to money, transportation, or employment.
When people are quarantined or under a stay at home order, it will undoubtedly lead to a rise in domestic violence incidents. And those affected may feel limited in their ability to leave or seek legal protection. They should not.
The majority of North Carolina’s superior and district court proceedings have been postponed for at least 30 days, with limited exceptions. But these exemptions include those necessary to preserve the right to due process and for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief, such as domestic violence protection orders, temporary restraining orders, juvenile custody orders, etc.
A Domestic Violence Protective Order often called a “DVPO” or a “50B order,” is a court order that requires a perpetrator of domestic violence to stay away from the victim. Law enforcement can arrest the perpetrator on the spot for violating the order. In North Carolina, a “permanent” DVPO can last for up to one year, but can be renewed for up to two years at a time. A copy of the complaint form can be found here.
Anyone living in North Carolina, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, can file for a DVPO.
Regardless of the current pandemic people should not be sequestered with their abusers or fear leaving because of possible exposure. Let attorney Breeden review your situation and explain how to obtain an emergency order in your area.
It’s important to keep in mind that many local North Carolina County Courts like those in Johnston, Harnett, or Wake County have unique procedures regarding how emergency custody and protective orders are handled. These can include when to file, how to present certain arguments, and estimating timeframes for results.
These matters are always best addressed by an experienced and local family law attorney.
While many North Carolina Courts are only open for emergency orders, there is a lot Breeden Law Office can do, so the unprecedented events of COVID-19 do not negatively impact your family’s legal issue. Conferences and negotiations can take place over the phone, by video, and many court filings can be done by mail or in person at the courthouses.
Let us answer your legal questions and walk your family through what’s next. Call (919) 661-4970 or contact us online. We are also accepting new clients, performing multiple consultations daily, and are available during normal hours.