Court Advocacy

Overview

The Court Advocate will ensure that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have a safe place to go where they can receive the resources that will empower them and facilitate the exertion of their personal and legal rights. The Court Advocate will increase a victim’s access and ability to participate in the legal system in order to strengthen their individual capacities and decrease vulnerabilities to violence.


How we Help

The Court Advocate helps the client prepare for the court hearing as well as provide emotional support. The Court Advocate also offers assistance with protection orders by completing the paper work, comprehending the instructions on where to file, and how to enforce the order. Assistance is also provided when trying to find low-cost or no-cost legal services along with navigating through the legal system. The Court Advocate has a Legal Resources Booth as the Onslow County Courthouse where information is distributed about the Onslow Women's Center and the services that the agency provides. The Court Advocate supplies information about court procedures to battered women who are seeking protection from the court, and gives referral information when necessary. 

Can I get a DVPO against a same-sex partner?

Yes, if you are living with or have lived with your partner in the past or if you are legally married.

How much does a DVPO cost?

There are no fees for filing a domestic violence protective order.

Do I need an attorney?

No, you do not need an attorney for DVPO or to get an ex parte order. You also do not need an attorney at the full court hearing, but you may want one, especially if you think the defendant (abuser) will have one. It is recommended that you contact an attorney to make sure your legal rights are protected. You can get free legal assistance through Legal Aid NC. Click here to be redirected to the Legal Aid website

What if I miss work to get a DVPO?

If you miss work for a reasonable time to file and attend court hearings for a DVPO, your employer cannot fire you, demote you, deny you a promotion, or discipline you.

What if I don't qualify for a DVPO or if my order is not granted?

If you do not qualify for a DVPO or it is not granted, you can still seek protection from the law. If you do not qualify for a DVPO because you do not have a "personal relationship" with a person who has stalked or sexually harassed you, you may be eligible to file for a civil no contact order

Step 1: Go to the courthouse, magistrate's office, or get in touch with Onslow Women's Center Court Advocate to fill out the appropriate documentation. If you need immediate protection from an abusive person you can file for an ex parte order, which goes into place once it's granted and lasts until you can go to court for the DVPO.

On the complaint, you will be the "plaintiff" and the abuser will be the "defendant." In the space provided, write about the most recent incidents of violence, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Do not sign the forms until you are in front of a notary or a clerk. If the abuser has any firearms, be sure to alert the court so the firearms can be removed from the abuser's possession. If you have children, you may also want to check to box asking for temporary custody.

Step 2: Once you have filled out all the forms, if the clerk of court does not do this automatically, you may have to take you DVPO to the Sheriff's Department so they can serve the defendant with the summons. Typically the clerk of court does this for you, but be prepared if this becomes your responsibility.

Step 3: To prepare for the court hearing you must prove that the defendant has committed acts of domestic violence against you or your children. To prepare for the court hearing collect evidence against the defendant (pictures, video, texts, emails, etc.) to show the judge that the defendant is abusive. You are not allowed to have your phone in the courtroom during the session so be sure to print off whatever evidence you need. Also be sure to arrange childcare because there are no children allowed in the courtroom either.

Step 4: On the day of the hearing, you must attend court in order to get your DVPO granted. If you miss court for whatever reason, the case will be dropped. If the abuser does not show up to the hearing the case may be continued or it could be granted. You do not need to have a lawyer, however you may want one, especially if your abuser has one. Legal Aid of NC provides legal assistance for free or low cost.

Click here to be redirected to the Legal Aid website.

You can ask for an Ex Parte Temporary Order for immediate protection if you believe you are in imminent danger from you abuser. An Ex Parte is a temporary emergency order that a judge can grant you if you or your child are in immediate danger. The abuser will be notified beforehand that you are seeking an Ex Parte.

If you are granted an Ex Parte Order it will only last about 10 days, until your full court hearing for the DVPO. You must show up in court on the day of your hearing to be able to be granted the DVPO.

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

  • Review the order before you leave and if you have any questions be sure to ask the clerk, your lawyer, or the Onslow Women's Center Advocate.
  • Make several copies of the DVPO and keep a copy with you at all times
  • Leave copies of you DVPO at your workplace, home, children's school/daycare, in your car, with friends/family, etc.
  • Give a copy of the DVPO to anyone named in the order (children, grandparents, parents, etc)
  • You may want to consider changing your locks and phone number, just to be safe. You can safety plan with an advocate from Onslow Women's Center or click this link to be redirected to a personalized safety plan you can fill out yourself.

How do I make sure that the DVPO is enforced?

Violating a DVPO is against the law. If the defendant's violates the order, call 911 immediately and tell them that you have a DVPO and the defendant is violating it right then. Be prepared to show a copy of your DVPO to the officers that respond to your call. If the defendant is found guilty of violating a DVPO they can be placed in jail for up to 150 days, depending on their criminal record.

If the defendant is not arrested immediately, you may want to contact the Magistrate's Office to ask for a criminal warrant for violation of the DVPO. Click here to be directed to the Onslow County Magistrate's Office.

  1. Be on time for court. If your case is called and you are not present, the case may be dismissed. If you do arrive late, let someone know that you are present (lawyer, clerk, advocate). Be sure that any witnesses are on time as well.
  2. Dress professionally. No jeans, t shirts, flip-flops. If you are in need of appropriate clothing, talk to the Onslow Women's Center Court Advocate and she may be able to help get you professional clothing.
  3. Do not chew gum
  4. Sit quietly in the audience until your case is called. A representative from Onslow Women's Center will sit with you on the date of your hearing to provide support.
  5. Listen very carefully so you can respond at the appropriate time and try to sit away from the defendant. If the defendant is bothering you, you can request assistance from the bailiff or other court personnel.
  6. Arrange for childcare. Child are not allowed in the courtroom. If you need help with childcare speak with an advocate at Onslow Women's Center.
  7. Speak loudly and clearly so the judge and courtroom can hear you. Answer any questions with "Sir" or "Ma'am."
  8. Do not loose your temper on the witness stand. Keep your cool when you are on the witness stand. It is a common practice among abusers to claim that they are not the violent ones. Remain calm and you testimony will be more valuable.
  9. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not guess. If you do not know the answer you can say that "you don't recall." If you guess and get the answer wrong, your credibility will be damaged.
  10. It is okay to be nervous. Take some deep breaths and try to remain calm.
  11. Tell the truth, plain and simple. Do not lie or over-dramatize events.
  12. When an attorney says "objection" do not answer the question until the judge rules on the motion. If the judge overrules the objection, you may answer the question; if the objection  is sustained, do not answer the question.

Testifying in court and having to be in closed quarters with your abuser are traumatizing events. Do not be ashamed if you feel nervous, sad, scared, or overwhelmed. The court advocate from Onslow Women's Center will be in court with you to help you through everything.