A new sense of confidence is building in our society as more and more prominent figures step out from behind the veil of silence and share their stories of abuse. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports one in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. On a local scale, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) reported one-quarter of all Charlotte homicides in 2017 were related to domestic violence. For some victims of abuse who keep their stories hidden, the nationally publicized stories of domestic abuse may seem too far from home. But what about a story that comes from a local figure with deep ties to the Charlotte community? We’re thinking of an inspiring young woman named Brittney Bogues, the daughter of former Charlotte Hornets point guard, Muggsy Bogues.
Brittney’s experience as a Community Outreach Coordinator at Safe Alliance motivated her to share her own story of abuse involving a former boyfriend who attacked her in college. For years Brittney kept the abuse a secret from her family and most of her friends. “I felt so alone because I didn’t want to tell anybody,” Brittney told The Charlotte Observer in a recent article; “I didn’t want them judging me. I felt hopeless, which is totally not like me.” But after hearing the stories of other women who have experienced violence in their relationships, Brittney decided it was time for her to share as well.
The attorneys at Hatcher Law Group regularly visit the divorce clinic at the Women’s Commission of Mecklenburg County to provide information on a variety of family law related topics. Here are some of the topics discussed during a recent clinic.
What legal options do I have to protect myself and my child from a violent household?
If you are the victim of domestic violence, your number one concern should be the safety of yourself and your children. You can seek assistance from the courts by filing a complaint for a Domestic Violence Protective Order, (“DVPO”) which can provide various forms of temporary relief, for up to one year, such as:
- exclusive possession of your residence;
- no contact from the abuser;
- temporary custody of your children;
- child support and spousal support;
- recovery of attorney’s fees; and
- many other forms of relief.
The first step is to obtain an initial Ex Parte DVPO, which only lasts for 10 days. You will need to file a complaint seeking the Ex Parte DVPO. In the complaint, you must provide the factual basis of the abuse and explain why you are seeking protection. In the complaint you will also include the specific forms of temporary relief you would like the judge to grant. After the complaint is filed, you will be given a hearing date and will be required to appear before a judge. The opposing party will not be present. The judge will ask you questions about the abuse, your complaint, and the relief sought. If the judge finds there is sufficient evidence of domestic violence, the judge will grant the Ex Parte DVPO. Once it expires, it must be renewed by a judge. Unlike the initial ex parte hearing for the DVPO, the opposing party will receive notice of an evidentiary hearing and has a right to attend and face the accuser. At this hearing, you can ask the judge to renew the DVPO for up to one year. At the expiration of the one year term, the DVPO may be renewed again.
How does the court take domestic violence into account in a custody dispute?
The judge has the ability to examine a multitude of factors impacting the health and welfare of a minor child and domestic violence is one of those factors to consider when making a custody determination. If the abuse occurred more recently, it may likely be more impactful to a judge. If the child is older and is able to testify or speak with a therapist about the abuse, it may also hold more weight. If the child is young or if the abuse happened long ago, it may still be considered by a judge and that should not discourage a parent or abused spouse from bringing it to the judge’s attention.
This blog is only a sample of the many questions encountered by victims of domestic violence. There are also a variety of other resources offered through the Women’s Commission in Mecklenburg County.
What types of resources are offered by the Women’s Commission?
The Women’s Commission offers a variety of resources for victims of domestic violence. They have trained individuals who are not attorneys that can offer assistance with the process of obtaining a DVPO. While they cannot provide legal advice, they can offer helpful information and resources to help guide you through the process. The Women’s Commission also provides individuals who will sit with you at the initial ex parte hearing and the renewal hearing as well. There is a free clinic, hosted by the Women’s Commission, which provides information and resources regarding family law matters including domestic violence, separation, divorce, child custody, child support, equitable distribution, and other topics as well. The clinic is offered the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. For more information on the Women’s Commission please call 704-336-3210.
Stephen A. Guardipee is a family law attorney with Hatcher Law Group. In addition to divorce and property distribution, he assists clients with child support, child custody and other domestic related issues.