Obtaining Legal Protection from an Abuser in South Carolina

Sometimes a marriage or other live-in relationship can go from bad to worse, fast. If you feel unsafe in your home, or fear that your partner or spouse’s anger may become violent, don’t wait to become a victim before seeking help. Read on to learn about ways that the legal system can protect you from violence in South Carolina, and contact us for a consultation if you feel unsafe.

Types of Protecting Orders

In South Carolina, there are two different means by which a court can shield you from an abusive person: an order of protection, or a restraining order. An order of protection will grant you a legal means of protecting yourself from someone who lives in your home, who used to live in your home, or with whom you have a child, whereas a restraining order offers protection from someone who does not live with you, including someone who may be stalking you or otherwise making you feel threatened. This post will focus on Orders of Protection from domestic partners or former domestic partners.

When Can I File a Petition for an Order of Protection?

Orders of protection can be obtained against a spouse or former spouse, persons who share a child, or someone with whom you live or used to live. You do not have to have already been the victim of physical violence in order to receive an order of protection; the threat of physical harm is sufficient.

How Does the Process for Obtaining an Order of Protection work?

In order to obtain an order, you should go to the Family Court clerk in the county where the abuse occurred, the county where you live, the county where the abusive person lives, or the county where you and the abuser last lived together. The clerk will provide the paperwork you will need to complete, which can be filed without payment of a fee. The court will then schedule a hearing. If you feel that it is an emergency situation, you may request that the hearing occur within 24 hours. The court will then serve the notice of the petition and hearing for an order of protection on the abusive person, who will have a right to attend the hearing.

What Happens at the Hearing?

In order to obtain a final Order of Protection, the court will require you to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., more likely than not) that the abuser either committed physical harm, assault, bodily injury, or threatened physical harm, or that the abuser committed sexual criminal offenses against the applicant or another member of the household. You may hire an attorney to represent you at this hearing, so that you do not have to prove your case alone. This is especially important in order to ensure the correct forms are filled out and that the proper evidence is presented in court.

What Can the Order of Protection Provide?

If the judge grants your request, the order of protection can include a wide variety of different restrictions on the abuser’s behavior. It can: bar the abuser from having any form of contact with you; keep the abuser from coming to your home, school, or place of work; require that the abuser pay financial support; grant you exclusive access to your home for a period of time; get the sheriff to come and move the abuser’s things out of your home; and it can even require that the abuser pay your attorneys’ fees. If the abuser violates the order, he or she will be subject to fines and potential jail time, depending on the type of violation.

If you or your child are the victim of domestic violence and need legal assistance, contact the experienced and compassionate family lawyers at The Cate Law Firm in Spartanburg, at 864-585-4226.

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