Addressing Legal Concerns

Survivors of domestic abuse often face complex legal barriers, as an abusive spouse or partner may use legal matters to maintain or gain more power and control in the relationship. The information below may help to answer questions and offer resources for those who need legal assistance and/or access to an attorney.

Addressing Legal Concerns

addressing legal concerns

  • Frequently Asked Legal Questions
  • Legal Resources for Victims of Domestic Abuse
  • Orders of Protection in South Carolina
    South Carolina law says that you can file for an Order of Protection if you have been a victim of abuse. "Abuse," under this law, means either:
    1. physical harm and/or bodily injury; 
    2. threat of physical harm; or
    3. a sexual criminal offense committed by a family or household member.
    The person who caused the abuse has to be related to you in one of these ways:
    1. your spouse or former spouse;
    2. the mother or father of your child; or
    3. an intimate partner with whom you live or used to live.
    If your situation does not fit one of these categories and you have experienced abuse or harassment, you may need to file for a restraining order in magistrate court. Find out which magistrate court serves your area.
  • What can an Order of Protection give you?
    The Order of Protection, if granted by the judge, can give you various types of relief on a temporary basis (6 months to 1 year). The judge will make decisions about what forms of relief can be given. Possible types of relief include:
    • Restraining the abuser from abusing you, threatening to abuse you or harassing you;

    • Restraining the abuser from contacting you or communicating with you, coming to your home, work, school or other place that the judge writes in the order;

    • Granting you temporary custody of any children you have with the abuser;

    • Granting visitation with the children: either giving reasonable visitation or denying visitation;

    • Requiring the abuser to pay child support for any children you have together;

    • Requiring the abuse to pay spousal support or alimony if you are married to the abuser;

    • Granting you possession of the home you live or lived in;

    • Restraining the abuser or both of you from transferring or destroying any property that might belong to the other person or that may be marital property;

    • Allowing you or the other person to get their personal property and restrict either or both people from destroying personal property. The order can also include that either person will have police assistance in retrieving their personal property;

    • Granting you any other relief that you have asked for in your petition (i.e. possession of a car, pet, or any other specific requests you have that aren't included in the list above.)

  • Where do you file the Petition?
    You will file your Order of Protection petition at the Clerk of Court (Family Court) in the county:
    1. where the abuse happened; 
    2. where the abuser lives; or
    3. where you last lived with the abuser.

    family courts in safe harbor's service area

    Anderson County: 100 S. Main St., Anderson, SC 29624 (ph: 864-260-4037)

    Greenville County: 301 University Ridge #800, Greenville, SC 29601 (ph: 864-467-5800)

    Oconee County: 211 W Main St., Walhalla, SC 29691 (ph: 864-638-4287)

    Pickens County: 214 E Main St., Pickens, SC 29671 (ph: 864-898-5598)

  • What happens once you have filed the Petition?

    Once you have filed your petition, a date will be set for your hearing. Before the hearing, your partner/spouse must be served with papers to appear in court by a law enforcement officer. If an officer is unable to serve your spouse/partner with papers to appear in court before the hearing date, your hearing will be continued to another date/time. If you feel fearful and unsafe before or after the hearing, please read about our safety planning information.

  • What to do on the day of court
    • Arrive on time and dress appropriately for court (no shorts, hats, etc.)

    • Bring any supporting information you may use for evidence (i.e. threatening voicemails/texts/emails, pictures of injuries or bruises, etc.)

    • If you feel unsafe being in a waiting area with your abusive spouse/partner, ask the receptionist if there is a private space where you can wait. You can also ask for an officer’s assistance if you are afraid your spouse/partner will try to approach, harass or harm you.

    • You may bring witnesses or supportive people with you to court. Keep in mind the courtroom is small and can only accommodate a small number of people.

    • During the hearing, answer any questions that the judge directs toward you. Do not try to speak while the judge is asking questions of your partner/spouse or others.

    • If you are granted an Order of Protection, make copies of the Order to keep with you at all times (i.e. in your home, car, purse, etc.). Contact law enforcement if your abusive spouse/partner violates the Order.

  • Safety Tips
    • Please be aware that there could be several days between when your partner is served with a summons to appear in court and the court hearing date. This can be a particularly dangerous time for victims of abuse. Safe Harbor has emergency safe shelter for survivors of domestic abuse and their children. Call 1.800.291.2139 and press option 1 to get more information and complete an intake. If you do not want to stay in shelter, consider staying with a friend or family member, preferably at an unknown location to your abusive spouse/partner.

    • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and utilize friends, coworkers, and security officers to escort you at your work or school.

    • If you fear that your abusive spouse/partner may be tracking you through technology, consider having your phone, car, computer or other devices checked by a law enforcement officer for spyware or GPS tracking.

    • If you feel that someone is following you, drive directly to the nearest Police or Fire Station or call 911

    • In court, if your partner approaches you in the lobby before the advocate calls your name, let an officer know and they will assist you.

    • If you do not feel safe exiting the building after court, ask an officer to escort you safely to your vehicle or ride.

  • Additional Order of Protection Resources

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