Order of Protection vs. Restraining Order: Know the Difference


You always have the right to be safe. When we are faced with issues of domestic violence, abuse, or harassment, though, we tend to doubt ourselves. However, if you feel you are in an unsafe situation and you know you need to take measures to protect yourself and/or your loved ones, there are legal actions available.

In South Carolina, there are two major types of protection available that are often confused with one another. By learning the differences and acquiring knowledge about how each works, you can make your next move with confidence.

Who Qualifies for a Restraining Order?

When applying for a restraining order, you are attempting to gain protection against someone outside of your family or household. This is someone who has been stalking or harassing you in some way. When presenting your case, there must be at least 2 incidents as evidence. 

Because the alleged perpetrator is outside of the family, the restraining order will be issued by the magistrate court. This restraining order will last for at least one year.

Who Qualifies for an Order of Protection?

Alternatively, when applying for an order of protection, you are gaining protection from a family or household member. That may be a spouse or former spouse, a co-parent, or anybody you lived with or is related to you. 

An order of protection is issued by the family court and is meant to protect you from someone who has physically injured you, harmed you or made threats to do so, raped you, or assaulted you. 

How To Obtain an Order of Protection

Whenever you decide it is time to seek the safety you deserve, your first step is to go to your local courthouse to file a complaint. From there, a judge will determine if you are in immediate danger.

If this is the case, you can expect an emergency hearing within 24 hours. At this hearing, the judge will hear the testimony of the alleged abuse. Upon deciding the testimony and evidence provided is sufficient for an order of protection, a temporary order of protection will be issued. 

Temporary Order Of Protection vs. Final Order Of Protection

A temporary order of protection precedes a final order of protection, as a full court hearing is necessary for the final order of protection to take hold. Typically, the temporary order lasts for 15 days after the abuser receives the order, but will be extended depending upon the court date for the full court hearing. 

A temporary court order can order your abuser to relinquish communication with you, prevent them from making threats against you or abusing you in any way, and ensure they stay away from any designated areas such as your home or your child’s school.

A full court hearing is where both you and the abuser are present and the judge hears each side. Once the final order of protection is put into place, it lasts between six months and a year.

A final order of protection includes all protections that a temporary order of protection does, as well as:

  • Ordering the abuser to provide financial support for you or your children if you have been married
  • Awarding temporary custody or visitation rights of your children
  • Disallowing the abuser to sell any mutually owned property
  • Ordering law enforcement to help you move your property from the abuser’s home
  • Anything else the judge determines is necessary to keep you safe

Seeking an order of protection can feel both frightening and freeing. To go through this vulnerable process, consulting with a compassionate family law attorney can help you feel more comfortable and give you much needed peace of mind. As you start this process, do not hesitate to reach out to our team of passionate, empathetic attorneys for counsel and advice.

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