The Definition of Family Violence in North Carolina – and How it Affects Divorce

The exact definition of “family violence” can be somewhat elusive. We all know that if one spouse strikes the other, this is clearly an example of domestic violence. But what about verbal threats? What about shouting matches? If your spouse pokes you in the chest aggressively, does this count as family violence? What about psychological manipulation, teasing, ridicule, humiliation, and things of that nature? It may be more important than you think to understand the definition of family violence in North Carolina, as it can have a serious effect on your divorce.

How North Carolina Define Domestic Violence

In North Carolina, domestic violence is defined as certain violent acts or causing a person to fear imminent serious bodily injury that causes severe emotional distress that is committed between people in a personal relationship (such as a marriage). In addition to spouses, domestic violence can be committed by roommates, parents (including co-parents), and anyone who is “dating.” If you do not fall into any of these categories, your offense would likely be considered simple assault or another crime of that nature.

But what does domestic violence actually look like? Here are a few examples:

  • Causing a bodily injury
  • Attempting to cause a bodily injury
  • Threatening bodily injury
  • Threatening continued harassment
  • Creating a sense of fear in the household
  • Rape (including first-degree, second-degree, and statutory rape)
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual battery
How Does This Affect a Divorce?

First of all, domestic violence is a crime that can lead to criminal consequences. These consequences exist outside of the divorce court. Secondly, victims can get to safety quickly by getting a protective order. Victims of domestic violence can also pursue stable housing while getting funds to pay their bills. From there, they can file for divorce and experience notable advantages. For example, victims will almost always receive sole physical custody.

However, it is essential to understand that the burden of proof lies on the accuser in this scenario. If it is simply your word against theirs, you might not get far. This is why it is imperative to call 9-1-1 as soon as you experience domestic violence. This will prompt a police investigation, and this may result in clear evidence of your spouse’s wrongdoing. A police report can help prove domestic violence during a divorce trial.

If your ex continues to harass you and come into contact with you in spite of the protective order, they face serious legal consequences. For example, if they commit a felony against you while under a protective order, their charges will be upgraded to a more serious felony. Even if your ex visits you without committing any overt crimes, they face a Class A1 misdemeanor.

Is Domestic Violence the Same Thing as Intimate Partner Violence?

The phrase “intimate partner violence” may be used interchangeably with the term “domestic violence.” However, intimate partner violence has not really entered the legal lexicon in North Carolina, and you will not hear it mentioned in any of the state’s laws. This is in contrast to other states, such as California. In the Golden State, the term “intimate family violence” has been discussed in depth by lawmakers, psychologists, journalists, and others.

According to the CDC, intimate partner violence (IPV) is exactly what it sounds like: Violence between people in an intimate relationship. The key distinction here is that IPV can include “psychological aggression” and “stalking.” According to the CDC, things like “unwanted attention” and “non-verbal communication” can constitute IPV. Some have raised concerns that this is going too far and that people should not have to face serious legal consequences for such minor interpersonal issues. In California, family courts are starting to penalize domestic abuse that is purely psychological in nature. Being “controlling” or “manipulative” is enough to warrant a protective order in some cases. Although North Carolina might not be quite as all-encompassing when it comes to its definition of domestic violence, this is definitely something to consider.

Where Can I Find a Qualified Divorce Attorney in North Carolina?

If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina, contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Over the years, we have helped numerous divorcing spouses in the Tar Heel State. We know that domestic violence can be very serious, and you have every right to fight for a fair divorce outcome if you have experienced this. As bad as this situation can be, you can use it to your advantage during your divorce. Book your consultation today, and you can get started on an effective action plan immediately.