While exact definitions vary from state to state, an Order of Protection in South Carolina is defined as a restraining order specifically for individuals seeking protection from members of their households. An Order of Protection is tailored to protect vulnerable individuals from immediate danger within their own households. It’s important petitioners understand that only physical violence, sexual violence, or threats of physical violence warrant such an order. Other types of restraining orders are available for other forms of harassment and threats. Unlike other types of restraining orders, a Family Court handles an Order of Protection case.
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Know Which County to File In
A petitioner may file in essentially any county connected to his or her case. For example, the petitioner may file in the county where he/she lives or has gone for shelter. However, unlike other qualifying counties, the case may not be heard in a petitioner’s county of residence. One reason for this is if the alleged abuser does not also reside in that county. Moreover, the petitioner may also file in the county where the alleged abuser resides, or in the county where the alleged abuse took place. A petitioner may also file in the last county where he/she resided with the alleged abuser.
Fill Out the Forms and Prepare Evidence
The Family Court Clerk of Courts can provide any petitioner with the forms to petition for an Order of Protection. While there is no filing fee, it’s still important to have a lawyer to help with the documents. If you cannot afford a lawyer, your county may be able to provide one pro bono, to help prepare the documents, but that lawyer may not attend the hearing.
A petition for an Order of Protection in South Carolina is usually, heard within twenty-four hours; therefore, it’s important to collect all evidence and have it ready. It’s ideal to prepare evidence before filing, especially because these cases move extremely fast. Additionally, it’s important to document all physical evidence as soon as possible, as physical injuries heal over time. If possible, have a doctor record evidence of any physical signs of abuse. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to see a doctor, take photos and recordings with a camera or phone for evidence.
Determine the Urgency of Your Situation
As mentioned above, petitions for an Order of Protection may be heard within twenty-four hours. Be sure to make any current threats known when filing so the judge can hear your petition as expediently as possible. Such petitions must be heard within fifteen days of filing, but situations of domestic abuse are often matters of life and death. Judges understand the urgency of such situations, and prioritize particularly urgent situations, hearing them first.
However, if you are not in immediate danger, allow those who are to be heard first. You will be heard, but there are a finite number of judges, and every hour matters in many cases.
The circumstances surrounding a petition for an Order of Protection are never easy. Fortunately, the state government of South Carolina has made the process direct and expedient. To prepare for a petition, determine which county to file in, collect your evidence, and prepare the applicable forms with a lawyer.