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.