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Know the Laws: South Carolina

UPDATED November 8, 2016

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

Steps for getting an order of protection

back to topStep 1: Get the necessary forms.

To start your case, you will need to fill out some forms.  To get these form, you can go to the courthouse or get them off the internet (Download Court Forms).

If you are going to court to get the forms, go to the Family Court clerk in 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.

: If it is after hours and the courts are closed, you may go to Magistrate's Court to file for an order of protection.  If you are filing for a stalking protective order, you must go to the Magistrate's Court and file your petition there.

To find the courthouse in your county, go to Courthouse Locations.

At the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the forms you need.  If you download the forms, you will still need to go to court to file them, or turn them in.

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back to topStep 2: Carefully fill out your forms.

The petition for an order of protection will ask for information about the abuser, how s/he abused you, and what kind of protection you need.  If you need help filling out your petition, ask the clerk for help.  Also, you can get help through one of the domestic violence agencies listed on our SC State and Local Programs page.

When you are filling out your forms, be specific.  Write briefly about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Include details and dates, if possible.

Note: Do not sign your form until you have shown it to a clerk. It may have to be signed in front of court personnel.

On the petition you will be the "petitioner" and the abuser will be the "respondent."

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back to topStep 3: Filing your petition.

Once you finish filling out your forms, give them to the clerk.  You should not be charged anything to file your petition.

The clerk may ask you for identification, so make sure to bring your driver's license or another form of ID with you.  It is also helpful to bring identifying information about the abuser if you have it, including addresses of residence and employment and phone numbers.

Emergency protection. If you are in immediate danger and need protection immediately, you may request an emergency hearing when you are filling out your petition.  In this case, you will go before a judge within 24 hours of filing your petition.  Once you prove that you are in immediate and present danger of bodily injury, a judge can grant you a temporary order of protection until your full hearing, which will take place within 15 days.

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back to topStep 4: Service of process

 Whether the judge grants you a temporary order or not, you may be given a court date for a "hearing" on your petition within 15 days (assuming that your petition is not dismissed).  This hearing will be in front of a judge and both of you will have a chance to tell your sides of the story.  At this hearing, a judge will decide whether or not to give you a final order of protection.

The respondent (the abuser) must be served notice of the hearing and the hearing date.  In other words, s/he must be given papers that tell him that there's a hearing for an order of protection and when that hearing will happen.

It is the local law enforcement agency's responsibility to serve notice of the hearing and your temporary order of protection to the abuser.

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back to topStep 5: The hearing

On the day of the hearing, you must go to court to ask a judge to give you a final order of protection.  You must go to the hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, any temporary orders you have will expire and you will have to start the process over.

See our Preparing Your Case page for more information about preparing for your hearing.

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