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Información Legal: Carolina del Sur

Carolina del Sur: Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

Orders of Protection

Basic information

What 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.1

A family or household member is defined as:

  • a spouse or ex-spouse;
  • someone who you have a child in common with; or
  • someone who you live(d) with.2

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.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-20(a)
2 S.C. Code § 20-4-20(b); Jane Doe v. State of South Carolina, 421 S.C. 490, 808 S.E.2d 807 (2017)

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

In South Carolina, 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 the 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 at which point a full court hearing will be held for a final order of protection.1 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 for between six months and one year.2 You may ask to have it extended. See How do I extend, change, or cancel my order of protection? for more information.

There is a different type of order for victims of stalking or harassment. For more information, see our Restraining Orders Against Stalking or Harassment page.

1 See Petition for Order of Protection
2 S.C. Code § 20-4-70(a)

What protections can I get in an order of protection?

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.1

A final order of protection can:

  • order all of the relief stated above; and
  • order the following additional terms:
    • 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 – however, this can only be ordered if the respondent has a legal duty to support you or your children, for example, as your spouse or your child’s other 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, including pets;
    • order the abuser not to harm or harass any pet owned or kept by you, any family member named in the order, or the abuser;
    • 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.2

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

Note: Although the order of protection laws do not specifically say that a judge can prohibit firearm possession as part of your order of protection, South Carolina’s gun laws say that for firearm possession to be illegal, the family court judge must order that the respondent is “prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing a firearm or ammunition.”.3 There are also additional “findings” that the judge must make, as explained on our South Carolina State Gun Laws page. Be sure to specifically ask the judge to include this language in your order if the abuser has a firearm.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-60(A)
2 S.C. Code § 20-4-60(C)
3 S.C. Code § 16-25-30(A)(4)

In which county can I file for an order of protection?

You can file a petition in any of the following counties:

  • the county where you live;
  • the county where you are currently in shelter, assuming that you are a state resident;
  • the county where the abuser lives;
  • the county where you and the abuser last lived together; or
  • the county where the abuse took place.1

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-30(A)-(C)

Si el agresor vive en otro estado, ¿puedo conseguir una orden en su contra?

Si el/la agresor/a vive en un estado diferente al suyo, el/la juez/a podría no tener “jurisdicción personal” (poder) sobre ese/a agresor/a. Esto significa que es posible que el tribunal no pueda otorgar una orden en contra de él/ella.

Hay algunas formas en las que una corte puede tener jurisdicción personal sobre un/a agresor/a que es de otro estado:

  1. El/la agresor/a tiene una conexión sustancial a su estado. Quizás el/la agresor/a viaja regularmente a su estado para visitarlo/a, por negocios, para ver la familia extendida, o el/la agresor/a vivía en su estado y huyó recientemente.
  2. Uno de los actos de maltrato “ocurrió” en su estado. Quizás el/la agresor/a le envía mensajes amenazantes o le hace llamadas acosadoras desde otro estado pero usted lee los mensajes o contesta las llamadas mientras usted está en su estado. El/la juez/a puede decidir que el maltrato “ocurrió” mientras estaba en su estado. También puede ser posible que el/la agresor/a estaba en su estado cuando le maltrató pero desde entonces se fue del estado.
  3. Otra forma para que la corte adquiera jurisdicción es si usted presenta su petición en el estado donde usted está, y el/la agresor/a recibe notificación de la petición de la corte mientras él/ella está en ese estado.

Sin embargo, aunque nada de esto aplique a su situación, eso no necesariamente significa que usted no pueda conseguir una orden. A usted le pueden dar una orden por consentimiento o el/la juez/a puede encontrar otras circunstancias que permitan que la orden sea dada. Puede leer más sobre jurisdicción personal en nuestra sección de Asuntos Básicos del Sistema Judicial - Jurisdicción Personal.

Nota: Si el/la juez/a de su estado se niega a dar una orden, usted puede pedir una orden en la corte del estado donde vive el/la agresor/a. Sin embargo, recuerde que es probable que usted necesite presentar la petición en persona y asistir a varias citas en la corte, lo cual podría ser difícil si el estado de el/la agresor/a es lejos.

Who can 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 current or former spouse, including same-sex spouses;
  • someone with whom you have a child in common; or
  • someone with whom you live (“cohabitate”) or with whom you used to live (“cohabitated”), including same-sex couples.1

If you are seeking protection from harassment or stalking by someone other than the above, such as a co-worker, neighbor, or dating partner, you may be eligible for a different kind of order. See our Restraining Orders Against Stalking or Harassment page.

If you are under the age of 18,2 an adult household member can file for an order of protection on your behalf.3

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-20(b); Jane Doe v. State of South Carolina, 421 S.C. 490, 808 S.E.2d 807 (2017)
2 S.C. Code § 20-4-30
3 S.C. Code § 20-4-40(a)

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

In South Carolina, you can apply for an order of protection against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to get an order of protection? You must also be the victim of an act of abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of abuse in South Carolina?

For non-married same-sex couples who are living together or who formerly lived together, it used to not be possible to get an order of protection. However, even though the language of the South Carolina statute says that only “a male and female” who live(d) together can qualify, the courts have ruled differently on this issue. In 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court declared that this part of the statute was unconstitutional as applied to same-sex partners.2 Therefore, non-married, same-sex partners who live(d) together can apply for an order of protection in South Carolina.

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-20(b)(iv)
2 Jane Doe v. State of South Carolina, 421 S.C. 490, 808 S.E.2d 807 (2017)

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no fee for filing a petition for an order for protection from domestic violence.1

You do not need a lawyer to file for a restraining order, but it is better to have one if you can. If the abuser has an attorney, you should try to get one also.

In many places, local domestic violence agencies or sexual assault programs and/or court clerk’s offices can help you file for a order of protection. You will find a list of agencies that might be able to help you on the SC Places that Help page.

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-65

Steps for getting an order of protection

Step 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 on our SC Download Court Forms page.

If you are going to court to get the forms, go to the Family Court clerk in the county where you live or are in shelter, where the abuser lives, where you and the abuser last lived together, or in the county where the abuse took place.1

Note: 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 SC 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.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-30(A)-(C)

Step 2: Carefully fill out the 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 Advocates and Shelters page.

On the petition you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” When you are filling out your forms, be specific. Write briefly about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language, such as 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.1 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 must be served notice of the hearing and the hearing date at least five days before the hearing.2 It is the local law enforcement agency’s responsibility to serve notice of the hearing and your temporary order of protection to the abuser.3

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

1 See Petition for Order of Protection
2 S.C. Code § 20-4-70(b)
3 S.C. Code § 20-4-80

Step 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 for Court - By Yourself page for more information about preparing for your hearing.

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in South Carolina have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If you have any questions about it, be sure to ask the clerk.
  • Make several copies of the order of protection as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order of protection with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order of protection at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks, if permitted by law, and your phone number.

One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the order of protection from the clerk. If the abuser was not at your final hearing, make sure law enforcement is serving him/her with a copy of the order of protection.

You may also wish to make a safety plan. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many abusers obey orders of protection, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips.

What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

A violation of the order can be a criminal offense. Punishment can range from thirty days in jail to a fine of $200. A violation can also be considered “contempt of court,” which is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.1

It is important to note that if the officer has “probable cause” to believe an assault has been committed, the police must make an arrest on domestic violence calls even if you don’t have an order of protection.

The respondent can be arrested even if you invite or “allow” the respondent to violate the prohibitions contained in the order. For example, if your order of protection that says the abuser cannot contact you, the abuser can be arrested for contacting you even if you contact him/her first.

If you no longer need the order of protection or want to change it, you must get a court order terminating or modifying the order for protection. See How do I extend, change, or cancel my order of protection?

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-60(B)(1)

How do I extend, change, or cancel my order of protection?

A judge can extend your order of protection, if you can show that it’s necessary for your protection. Return to the family court clerk’s office and request a motion to extend form. Be sure to bring your order of protection with you.

If you need to change your order of protection, you will need to return to court and ask the judge. Return to the family court clerk’s office and request a motion to modify form. Be sure to bring your order of protection with you.

If you have reconciled with the respondent and want to cancel your order of protection, you do not have to go to a hearing. Instead, you can return to the clerk’s office and ask for an order of dismissal. You will have to show proper ID and sign a written request to dismiss the order on the basis of reconciliation.1

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-70(A)

What happens if I move?

Federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands. Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area. Alternatively, you can call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.

For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

Restraining Orders Against Stalking or Harassment

Basic info and definitions

What is a restraining order against stalking or harassment?

A restraining order against stalking or harassment is a civil order that is issued by the Magistrate’s Court for people who are being harassed or stalked. You do not need to have a specific relationship with the person harassing or stalking you – it can be a neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance, etc.

The restraining order against stalking or harassment can order the defendant to not:

  • abuse, threaten, or bother (“molest”) you or your family members;
  • enter or attempt to enter your home, workplace, school, or other location; and
  • communicate or attempt to communicate with you.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1770(B)

What are the legal definitions of "stalking" and "harassment?"

Harassment is a pattern of intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusions into your private life that serve no legitimate purpose and would cause a “reasonable person” to suffer mental or emotional distress. Harassment may include, but is not limited to:

1. following you;
2. verbal, written, or electronic contact that is initiated, maintained, or repeated and causes you mental distress;
3. visual or physical contact that takes place after you have told the person not to contact you or after you filed an incident report with the police;
4. staying around or doing surveillance of your home, workplace, school, or other place you regularly go; or
5. vandalism and property damage.1

Stalking is a pattern of words or conduct that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to cause, and does reasonably cause, you to fear that you or your family member will be:

1. killed;
2. assaulted;
3. injured;
4. criminally sexually abused;
5. kidnapped; or
6. subjected to property damage.2

Note: A “pattern” means two or more acts; “family member” means your spouse, child, parent, sibling, or a person who regularly lives in the same household with you.3

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1700(A), (B)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1700(C)
3 S.C. Code § 16-3-1700(D), (E)

What types of restraining orders against stalking or harassment are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders: the emergency temporary order and the final extended order.

Within twenty-four hours after you file for the restraining order, the judge can hold an emergency hearing. If at that hearing, the judge believes your allegations, the judge can issue a temporary ex parte restraining order without first informing the defendant, which usually lasts for around 15 days. Then this temporary restraining order would be served upon the defendant along with what is called a “Rule to Show Cause.” The Rule to Show Cause must provide the date and time of the hearing where the defendant would have to appear to convince the judge that a final order should not be granted. The final order would last for at least one year. The judge will decide the exact length of the order on a case-by-case basis.1

If the judge does not give you the temporary order, the judge can still set a date for a hearing to decide if you will get the final order. This hearing will generally take place within fifteen days of the date that you file for the order.2

1 S.C. Code §§ 16-3-1760(A), (B), (D); 16-3-1750(E)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1760(C), (D)

Si el agresor vive en otro estado, ¿puedo conseguir una orden en su contra?

Si el/la agresor/a vive en un estado diferente al suyo, el/la juez/a podría no tener “jurisdicción personal” (poder) sobre ese/a agresor/a. Esto significa que es posible que el tribunal no pueda otorgar una orden en contra de él/ella.

Hay algunas formas en las que una corte puede tener jurisdicción personal sobre un/a agresor/a que es de otro estado:

  1. El/la agresor/a tiene una conexión sustancial a su estado. Quizás el/la agresor/a viaja regularmente a su estado para visitarlo/a, por negocios, para ver la familia extendida, o el/la agresor/a vivía en su estado y huyó recientemente.
  2. Uno de los actos de maltrato “ocurrió” en su estado. Quizás el/la agresor/a le envía mensajes amenazantes o le hace llamadas acosadoras desde otro estado pero usted lee los mensajes o contesta las llamadas mientras usted está en su estado. El/la juez/a puede decidir que el maltrato “ocurrió” mientras estaba en su estado. También puede ser posible que el/la agresor/a estaba en su estado cuando le maltrató pero desde entonces se fue del estado.
  3. Otra forma para que la corte adquiera jurisdicción es si usted presenta su petición en el estado donde usted está, y el/la agresor/a recibe notificación de la petición de la corte mientras él/ella está en ese estado.

Sin embargo, aunque nada de esto aplique a su situación, eso no necesariamente significa que usted no pueda conseguir una orden. A usted le pueden dar una orden por consentimiento o el/la juez/a puede encontrar otras circunstancias que permitan que la orden sea dada. Puede leer más sobre jurisdicción personal en nuestra sección de Asuntos Básicos del Sistema Judicial - Jurisdicción Personal.

Nota: Si el/la juez/a de su estado se niega a dar una orden, usted puede pedir una orden en la corte del estado donde vive el/la agresor/a. Sin embargo, recuerde que es probable que usted necesite presentar la petición en persona y asistir a varias citas en la corte, lo cual podría ser difícil si el estado de el/la agresor/a es lejos.

The court process

In which county do I apply for a restraining order against stalking or harassment?

To get a restraining order against stalking or harassment, you will have to file in Magistrate’s Court in any of the following counties:

  • the county where the defendant currently lives;
  • the county where the harassment or stalking occurred; or
  • the county where you live but only if the defendant lives out of state or cannot be found.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1750(B)

Do I have to pay to file for a restraining order?

You will not be charged a fee for filing for a restraining order. However, the court will order the fee to be paid by the person who loses the case. In other words, if the judge grants you the restraining order, the defendant will have to pay the filing fee. If the judge decides that you did not prove your case and you do not get the order, you will have to pay the filing fee.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1750(D)

Can I extend or change my restraining order?

You can file a motion to ask that the final restraining order be extended for “good cause.” The defendant will have the chance to present evidence at a hearing within thirty days of the expiration date of the order to tell the judge why the order should not be extended. Then the judge will decide whether to extend it or not.1

If you want to change your order, you can file a motion to modify the order.2

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1780(B)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1780(D)

Permanent Restraining Orders (based on a criminal conviction)

Basic info and definitions

What is a permanent restraining order?

A permanent restraining order is a civil order that can be issued based on a conviction for certain criminal offenses. It can protect not only victims of crime but also witnesses who helped the prosecution during the criminal court proceedings.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1920(C)

What types of criminal convictions could qualify me for a permanent restraining order?

If the respondent is convicted of, pleads guilty to, pleads no contest (“nolo contendere”) to, forfeits bail to, or is a juvenile who is adjudicated “delinquent”1 of any of the following crimes or the attempt to commit any of these crimes, you can qualify for a permanent restraining order:

Note: You can also get a permanent restraining order if the abuser was charged with a criminal sexual conduct offense, but it was later pled down to “assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature” or if the abuser was charged with a domestic violence offense and it was later pled down to “assault and battery” or “assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.”2

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1900(2)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1900(3)

What protections can I get in a permanent restraining order?

A permanent restraining order can order the respondent not to:

  • abuse, threaten to abuse, or bother (“molest”) you and members of your family;
  • enter or attempt to enter your home, workplace, school, or other location; and
  • communicate or attempt to communicate with you or members of your family.1

​An emergency restraining order issued by the Magistrate’s Court can provide the same protections.2

​1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(K)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1920(I)

In which county do I file for a permanent restraining order?

If you are filing in the General Sessions Court, you will be filing in the court that issues the criminal conviction so there is no question as to in which county you must file. If you file in the Court of Common Pleas, you must file in any of the following counties:

  1. the county where the respondent lives;
  2. the county where the criminal offense occurred; or
  3. the county where the you live but only if the respondent doesn’t live in the state or cannot be found.1

​1 S.C. Code §16-3-1920(B)

Getting an order

Who can file for a permanent restraining order?

You can file for a permanent restraining order under any of the following circumstances:

  • You are the victim of one of the qualifying criminal offenses that took place in South Carolina;
  • You are an adult who lives in South Carolina, and you are filing on behalf of a minor child who is the victim of one of the qualifying criminal offenses that took place in South Carolina;1 or
  • You are the spouse, parent, child, or lawful representative of a victim of one of the qualifying criminal offenses that took place in South Carolina and the victim is:
    • dead;
    • a minor;
    • incompetent; or
    • physically or psychologically incapacitated.2
  • You are a witness to one of the qualifying criminal offenses that took place in South Carolina and you assisted in the prosecution of the crime.1 Even if you don’t actually testify at trial, you can still qualify if were subpoenaed, expected to be subpoenaed, or likely to be called as a witness to testify for the prosecution.3

1 S.C. Code §§ 16-3-1900(1); 16-3-1910(C)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1900(6)(b)
3 S.C. Code § 16-3-1900(7)

When and where do I file for a permanent restraining order? How long do they last?

You can file for a permanent restraining order in front of the criminal court judge in General Sessions Court at the time a conviction is entered or in front of a civil court judge in the Court of Common Pleas any time after the respondent is convicted. The court would then set a date for a hearing where you would appear to request the order. The respondent has 30 days to respond to your petition.1

If you want to get an immediate, temporary ex parte order while you wait for the hearing, you would have to file a separate petition for an emergency restraining order at the Magistrate’s Court. The Magistrate’s Court would then hold a hearing within 24 hours and decide whether to issue the temporary ex parte order.2

The judge will decide how long a permanent restraining order lasts.3 There is no specific timeframe laid out in the law. You can file a request to have the order extended, though, before it expires.4

​1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(B), (G)
2 S.C. Code § 16-3-1920(A), (H)(1)
3 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(M)(1)
4 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(M)(2)

How will a judge decide whether or not to give me the order? Do I have to be physically injured?

You only have to prove that the respondent was convicted of one of the qualifying criminal offenses. You do not have to prove that you suffered a physical injury.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(J)

Is there a fee to file for a permanent restraining order?

There is no fee to file for a permanent restraining order.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(F)

After an order is issued

What happens if the respondent violates the order?

If the respondent violates the order, you can report it to law enforcement. Depending on what the respondent did to violate the order, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The punishment for a misdemeanor violation is up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. The punishment for a felony violation is up to five years in prison.1

1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(O)

Can my order be extended?

You can file a request to have the order extended before it expires.4 However, there is no specific timeframe laid out in the law as to how long the extension can last.

​1 S.C. Code § 16-3-1910(M)(2)

Moving to Another State with an Order of Protection

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your order of protection can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my order of protection from South Carolina enforced in another state?

Yes.  If you have a valid South Carolina order of protection that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid orders of protection granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.  See How do I know if my order of protection is good under federal law? to find out if your order of protection qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state orders of protection in the same way it enforces its own orders.  Meaning, if the abuser violates your out-of-state order of protection, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.  This is what is meant by “full faith and credit.”

How do I know if my order of protection is good under federal law?

An order of protection is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

I have a temporary (ex parte) order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes.  An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my order of protection is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires.  If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court).  However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

Getting your order of protection enforced in another state

How do I get my order of protection enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your order of protection enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid order of protection is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1   Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state.  You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your order of protection with you at all times.  It is also a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need anything special to get my order of protection enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your order of protection. A certified copy says that it is a “true and correct” copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. In South Carolina, a certified order either has an original judge’s signature or a stamp and seal on it.

South Carolina is also a part of Project Passport, which means that the first page of your order of protection looks the same as orders in other Project Passport states. This means it may be easier to get your order of protection enforced in one these states, which include:

Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (located in Alabama) 1

The copies you originally received should have been certified copies either given to you or mailed to you.2 If your copies are not certified, go to the family court office and ask for a certified copy. There is no fee to get a certified copy of a South Carolina order of protection.

Note: It may be a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You may also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move. Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. You may want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work and to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

1 Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Data Resource Center. “Projects.”
2 S.C. Code Ann. § 20-4-80

Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your order of protection enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your order of protection, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the drop-down menu on the top left-hand corner of this page, and click on the Places that Help page.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my order of protection. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your order of protection (if there is a custody provision).  You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the South Carolina area on our SC Advocates and Shelters page and our SC Finding a Lawyer page.

I was granted temporary custody with my order of protection. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in an order of protection can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 USC § 2266

Do I need to tell the court in South Carolina if I move?

You are not required to tell the court in South Carolina if you move. However, it might be a good idea to give the court a current address so that you can be notified of any actions that are taken regarding your order of protection. The court may need to know how to get in touch with you if needed.

Enforcing your Out-Of-State Order in South Carolina

If you are planning to move to South Carolina or are going to be in South Carolina for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in South Carolina

Can I get my order of protection enforced in South Carolina? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your protection order can be enforced in South Carolina as long as:

  •  It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

Can I have my out-of-state order of protection changed, extended, or canceled in SC?

No.  Only the state that issued your order of protection can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in South Carolina.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in South Carolina, you may be able to get a new one issued in South Carolina but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in South Carolina.  To find out more information on how to get a protective order in South Carolina, visit our SC Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my order of protection. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in South Carolina?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 South Carolina can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area click here SC Finding a Lawyer.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

Registering your out-of-state order in South Carolina

If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?

To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1

There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.

Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.

1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016

How do I register my order of protection in South Carolina?

To register your protection order in South Carolina, you need to take a certified copy to the court clerk at the Family Court where you live. The clerk will give you a copy of the order that shows it has been filed and will tell you to take a certified copy to the local law sheriff’s office to be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry or for enforcement purposes.1

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in South Carolina for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our SC Advocates and Shelters page.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-350

Do I have to register my order of protection in South Carolina in order to get it enforced?

No. South Carolina state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order even if it contains protections that could not be included in a South Carolina order of protection as long as you can show the officer a copy of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect.1 It does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by a South Carolina police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is a valid (real) order.

1 S.C. Code § 20-4-330

Will the abuser be notified if I register my order of protection?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our SC Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

What if I don't register my order of protection? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

It should not be more difficult to get your order of protection enforced even if you do not register it in South Carolina.  South Carolina state law does not require registration or entry into the NCIC for an order to be enforced, and law enforcement officials must enforce an out-of-state order as long as you can show them a copy and tell them that it is still valid.1

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in South Carolina.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in South Carolina, go to our SC Advocates and Shelters page.

1S.C. Code § 20-4-340

Does it cost anything to register my order of protection?

No. There is no fee for registering your order of protection in South Carolina.1

1S.C. Code § 20-4-350(F)