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While we can assist you with completing paperwork to request an Order of Protection and how to prepare for your hearing in family court, we do not have attorneys on staff and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice. You are not required to have an attorney for an Order of Protection hearing. However, having an attorney can be very helpful. If you need legal representation, please contact South Carolina Legal Services or the S.C. Bar Association.
For assistance with completing an Order of Protection petition, please complete our online intake form or call 1.800.291.2139 (press ‘1’ to speak with someone) to complete a phone intake. You will need to provide a safe phone number or email address so that someone can follow-up with you. Once your phone intake is completed, you will hear from a member of our team within five business days to set-up a meeting. Please note that Safe Harbor services are voluntary and should be initiated by the person seeking services, not by a service provider, loved one or third party.
If your situation does not fit into 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.
The Order, if granted by the judge, can give you various types of relief on a temporary basis (6 months to 1 year). This list includes possible types of relief; the judge will make decisions about what forms of relief can be given. Possible types of relief through an Order of Protection include:
Once you have filed your petition, a date will be set for your court hearing.
Before the hearing, your spouse/partner 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 and time.
If you feel fearful or unsafe before or after your hearing, please read our safety planning information.
Arrive on time and dress appropriately for court (no shorts, hats, etc.)
Bring any supporting information you may use for evidence (threatening voicemails/texts/emails, pictures of injuries/bruises, etc.)
If you feel unsafe being in a waiting area where your abusive spouse/partner will also be waiting, ask a court staff member if there is a private space where you can wait. You can also ask for an officer’s assistance if you are afraid that your abusive 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 during the times when the judge is asking questions to your spouse/partner or others.
If you are granted an Order of Protection, make copies of the order to keep with you at all times (in your home, car, purse, etc.) Contact law enforcement if your abusive spouse/partner is violating the order.
Please be aware that there could be several days between when your partner is served with a summons to appear in court and your court hearing date. This can be a particularly dangerous time, and Safe Harbor offers safe emergency shelter for survivors of domestic abuse and their children. Call our 24/7 line at 1.800.291.2139 (select option 1 to speak with someone) and complete an intake. If you do not want to stay in shelter, consider staying with a friend or family member, preferably at a location unknown to your abusive spouse/partner.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times and utilize friends, coworkers and security officers to escort you at 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. There will always be someone there to assist you.
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 your hearing, ask an officer to escort you safely to your vehicle or ride.
You can find more information about Legal Concerns about domestic violence on our website.