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Know the Laws: South Carolina

UPDATED April 3, 2012

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An Order of Protection is a civil order that provides protection from abuse by your current or former spouse, someone you have a child in common with, or your live-in partner of the opposite sex.

Basic Information

back to topWhat 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.

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse in South Carolina?

This section defines abuse for the purposes of getting an order of protection.

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.**

Note: If the acts of the abuser do not fit in this definition, or if you don’t have the required relationship with the abuser, you may still be eligible for a restraining order against stalking or harassment. See our Restraining Orders Against Stalking or Harassment page for more information.

* SC Code § 20-4-20(a)
** SC Code § 20-4-20(b)

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back to topHow 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. See SC State Gun Laws for more information.

* Code 1976 § 20-4-60(A)
** Code 1976 § 20-4-60(C)

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back to topIn 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)

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