There is a standard process throughout North Carolina for initiating the 50B complaint against your abuser. If you are unable to hire an attorney to represent you, you may consider seeking assistance from Safe Alliance, a nonprofit organization offering assistance to victims of domestic violence. Another option is to prepare and file the paperwork yourself. The forms needed are all available on the North Carolina Court System’s website: “Instructions for Domestic Violence Forms”.
Once you have filed your 50B complaint, you may have an emergency ex parte hearing (without the defendant present) in the Domestic Violence Civil Court within 72 hours. Usually, though, you can go before a judge the same day you file if you file before 12:00 p.m. If it is past regular business hours, you can go to the magistrate's office, who can issue a temporary Ex Parte 50B Order. Often the magistrate will issue a warrant at the same time for the abuser’s arrest if the allegations in your complaint constitute a crime.
At the ex parte hearing, you will describe to the judge exactly what the abuser has done to physically harm you and/or your children; and/or what threats of bodily injury he or she made to you and/or your children. Explain to the judge why you fear for your safety or the safety of your children. When you are speaking to the judge, be direct and to the point – focus on the problems with your abuser. If you have children, you may request temporary custody. You may also ask the judge to have the sheriff pick your children up if they are with the abuser or the abuser’s family. At the end of your hearing, the judge will decide whether you have presented sufficient evidence, and, if so, an Ex Parte 50B Order will be issued, which lasts for ten days. The judge will also schedule a full hearing ten days from the entry of the ex parte order ("10-day" Hearing), where the defendant (and perhaps his or her attorney) will be present.
At the "10-day" Hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a 50B Order for up to one year. The judge will ask you to explain why you think you and/or your children are in danger of domestic violence. Just like in your ex parte hearing, you will need to be as specific and clear as possible and stay focused on the issues related to your abuse. At this time, you may want to present any evidence that will support your allegations of abuse. For example, you may want to bring any damaged clothing; photos of broken furniture or objects; photos of your physical injuries; medical records; police reports (you can subpoena, or legally require, the police officer to appear in court and explain his or her report); 911 tapes/transcripts; text messages or call logs; and records of work missed as a result of the abuse. If you have children, you likely will discuss what type of visitation arrangement you want for your children and the abuser. You or your attorney can also ask any witnesses to explain what they know about the domestic violence committed against you and/or your children.
After your evidence is presented, the defendant or his or her attorney may try to dismiss your 50B case, stating that you have not proven enough to support your claim. Do not panic - this is a normal motion for an attorney to make. It is unlikely the judge will dismiss your case at this point if you have presented sufficient evidence. If the defendant's motion is denied, the defendant and his or her witnesses, if any, will present their case just as you did previously. After the defendant and each of his or her witnesses testify, you and your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine them. The judge may also ask the defendant and his or her witnesses some questions, just as that judge has the opportunity to ask you questions while you present your evidence. After the defendant's case has been presented, the judge may ask you or your attorney to give a brief closing argument where either of you will relay to the judge that you have proven the act(s) of domestic violence with your evidence.