In North Carolina divorce cases where domestic violence exists, the abuse does not always end when the couple separates. While people often picture black eyes, split lips, and bruises as the signs of domestic violence, the unseen effects of emotional abuse and stalking can be just as debilitating and may continue long after spouses set up separate residences. If you are considering filing for divorce or have already started the process, your attorney can help you take legal action to protect yourself from emotional abuse and stalking during this difficult time.
How does North Carolina Define Emotional Abuse?
North Carolina's domestic violence statute specifically addresses emotional abuse. It states that a person is a victim of domestic violence when the other party places that person
in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment...that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.
Substantial emotional distress is subjective. You may have to prove that the offender's behavior was outrageous and extreme, or that the offender's actions were done deliberately to cause substantial emotional distress. This can cover a variety of actions, but one of the most common is by stalking.
You can be stalked by your spouse after you have separated. North Carolina law defines stalking as a person willfully more than once harassing another person in such a way that the other person fears for his or her safety or suffers substantial emotional distress because he or she fears death, injury, or continued harassment. Although stalking is a form of emotional abuse, it may escalate to put you at risk of physical harm or death. You are in the most danger when you leave or end your marriage, so take any threats seriously.
In divorce cases, stalking takes many forms, but may include:
- Repeated phone calls after you ask the person to stop
- Threatening text messages
- Harassment on social media
- Sending unwanted gifts
- Showing up or driving by your home or work
- Threatening or actually hurting your pets.
Obtaining a Protective Order in Raleigh, NC
If you are suffering from substantial emotional distress and fear injury or death due to your spouse's actions during the divorce process, you can seek relief through a Protective Order. Also called a 50B Order, this is a civil order issued by a judge that orders the defendant to cease contacting you in any form. During your divorce, your attorney will continue communicating with your spouse's attorney to move the process forward.
Although a Protective Order is a civil order, violating it can have criminal consequences. If your spouse continues to contact you, causing you substantial emotional distress, the (ex)spouse can be charged with a Class A1 Misdemeanor, which includes 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine.
Protect Yourself From Emotional Abuse with an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney
North Carolina law recognizes emotional abuse as a form of domestic violence, and you do not have to suffer alone, especially if you are in the midst of a divorce. If your spouse is emotionally abusive to you and you have started the divorce process, or if you are ready to file, visit our dedicated Divorce page and contact Jerkins Family Law today.