Orders of Protection

What is an Order of Protection?

An Order of Protection is a paper that is signed by a judge and tells your abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. It offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both women and men.

What is the legal definition of abuse in South Carolina?

South Carolina law defines abuse as when a “family or household member”:

  • Physically harms you or threatens to do so,
  • Physically injures you,
  • Assaults you, or
  • Rapes you or commits another sexual criminal offense against you.*

A family or household member is defined as:

  • a spouse or ex-spouse;
  • someone who you have a child in common with; or
  • someone of the opposite sex who you live(d) with.**

* SC Code § 20-4-20(a)

** SC Code § 20-4-20(b)

How can an order of protection help me?

A temporary order of protection can:

  • Order the abuser not to abuse you or threaten to abuse you;
  • Order the abuser not to communicate with you or try to communicate with you; and
  • Order the abuser to stay away from any place you request including your school, home, child’s day care, or workplace.*

A final order of protection can:

  • Order all of the relief stated above;
  • Award temporary custody and visitation rights of your children
  • Order your abuser to pay temporary financial support for you and/or your child if you are married or s/he is the legal parent of the child;
  • Grant temporary possession of your shared residence (even if the respondent owns the home or is the only one on the lease) only if the respondent has a legal duty to support you or your children (i.e., s/he is your spouse or child’s parent);
  • Forbid the abuser from selling or getting rid of income, homes, or property you share;
  • Order who will get temporary possession of the personal property of the parties;
  • Order law enforcement to help you remove personal property from the home if the respondent will be staying in the home and you will be leaving it;
  • Order the abuser to pay for court costs and your attorney’s fees; and
  • Order anything else you ask for that the judge thinks is necessary to keep you safe.**

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case. It is also likely illegal under federal law for the abuser to have a gun in his/her possession if you have an order of protection.

* Code 1976 § 20-4-60(A)

** Code 1976 § 20-4-60(C)

In which county can I file for an Order of Protection?

You can file a petition in the county where you live or are in shelter (if you are a state resident), in the county where the abuser lives (if the abuser is a state resident), in the county where you and the abuser last lived together, or in the county where the abuse took place.*

* SC Code Ann. § 20-4-30(A)-(C)

Can I get an Order of Protection? Am I eligible to get an Order of Protection?

You are eligible to file for an Order of Protection if you or your children have been the victim of acts of abuse by:

  • your spouse,
  • your former spouse,
  • someone with whom you have a child in common, and
  • your live-in partner or former live-in partner, if one of you is male and the other is female.

If you are seeking protection from harassment or stalking by someone other than the above (for example, a co-worker, neighbor, a dating partner, or a same-sex partner) you may be eligible for a different kind of order.

If you are under the age of 18*, an adult household member can file for an Order of Protection on your behalf.**

* S.C. Code Ann. § 20-4-30

** S.C. Code Ann. § 20-4-40(a)

Can I get an order for protection against a same sex partner?

No. Same sex partners can not file for an order of protection against domestic violence in SC. Under SC law, you are only eligible to file an order of protection against:

  • a current or former spouse;
  • a person you have a child in common with;
  • a person of the opposite sex who you are living with or formerly have lived with.*

You might be eligible to file a restraining order against stalking or harassment against your same sex partner.
* SC Code § 20-4-20(b)

What types of orders of protection are there? How long do they last?

In SC, there are temporary Orders of Protection and final Orders of Protection.

Temporary Orders of Protection are issued when a judge believes you you are in immediate danger of abuse. A judge will hold a court hearing before you can get a temporary order, but your abuser will not be present at this hearing. The judge will hold the hearing within 24 hours of you filing your petition. The temporary order is generally in effect for 15 days after service of the order (in other words, when your abuser is given a copy of the order), at which point a full court hearing will be held for a final Order of Protection. However, the judge may extend the temporary order if your full court hearing is postponed.

Final Orders of Protection are issued only after a full court hearing, where both you and the abuser have a chance to be present and present both your sides of the story. Final Orders of Protection last at least 6 months but not more than one year. You may ask to have it extended.

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