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Legal Information: South Carolina

Restraining Orders

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December 8, 2020

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