In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What a South Carolina restraining order is, including its purpose
- How to file a restraining order in the state of South Carolina
- The requirements to file a South Carolina restraining order
Filing a restraining order against another person when you feel that you’re being threatened or harassed is a good way to take control over your life, but it’s not a permanent solution.
Here, you’ll learn how to prepare to file a restraining order, how to carry out the order, what the hearing process entails, and what to do after when your restraining order has been granted.
What Is the Purpose of a Restraining Order?
The basics of a restraining order (also known as a “protective order” under South Carolina law) are pretty simple:
It’s an order, mandated by a court, that prevents another person from threatening, stalking, harassing, or generally making you feel unsafe.
The parties named in a restraining order hearing are:
- the defendant: the person who is alleged to have made you feel unsafe by threatening or stalking the victim
- the plaintiff: the person filing for the restraining order, or the victim of the defendant’s alleged behavior
In South Carolina, a restraining order prevents the defendant from coming within a certain distance from the person who files the restraining order, plus listed family members. This means that once a restraining order goes into effect, the harasser is unable to abuse or threaten any members of the victim’s family, enter the victim’s residence, place where the victim is employed, or the school of the victim or any of their family members. The defendant will also be barred from trying to communicate with the victim or the family members listed in the restraining order.
How to File a Restraining Order in South Carolina
Before you file a restraining order, there are a few things you need to know:
Document Any Relevant Evidence
First, you must document all instances of harassment or threatening behavior to build a case. In order to be granted a restraining order, you must show that the defendant has threatened, harassed, or stalked you at least twice in the 90 days prior to your filing a restraining order. Even if the “threat” seems small, take note of it, because a court may view even a small threat as grounds for a protective order.
It’s important to document any threatening behavior. If it happens online or through text messages, take screenshots and save them in one place. Take photos of damage to your property caused by the defendant, and take notes whenever you feel that the person in question has harassed or stalked you to use as evidence when you file a restraining order.
Figure Out Where to File
In South Carolina, you have three options in terms of where you file your restraining order. These may all end up being the same county, depending on the unique circumstances of your case:
Option 1: The county where the stalking or harassment occurred. If the actions in question occurred in multiple counties, this is not as cut and dry.
Option 2: The county where the alleged defendant lives. This is a safe bet and could be the most convenient for you if you live in the same county as your harasser.
Option 3: The county where you live, if you don’t have an address for the defendant. In some cases, restraining orders are filed against someone who you may not know well, in which case, filing the order in the county where you have residence is sufficient.
The First Step
The first thing you’ll want to do when filing a restraining order in SC is to contact the county where you plan to file and acquire the necessary paperwork from the County Magistrate’s office. This paperwork is available for free.
Once you complete the paperwork and file it with the Magistrate’s Office, a hearing date will be set to decide whether your protective order will be granted. In South Carolina, the hearing will be set between 5 and 15 days from the time that you file the paperwork. During this time, the defendant will be served papers relating to the pending restraining order with a notice to appear at the hearing.
The Hearing Process
When the date of your hearing arrives, the case will be heard in front of a magistrate in the county where the paperwork was filed.
Both you (the plaintiff) and the defendant have a chance to speak, present evidence, and argue why the protective order should or shouldn’t be issued. It should be noted here that while you don’t need a lawyer for this hearing, one can be helpful in protecting your interests and deciding how to craft your statements in front of the court. For the defendant, a lawyer can be helpful in order to defend against the allegations being heard.
The Magistrate hears an argument from both parties and decides whether there is grounds to grant the restraining order. If they decide to grant it, the order goes into effect immediately.
A few things to remember:
- In South Carolina, a restraining order is in effect for 6 months. If you still feel unsafe for the same reasons, you may request an extension hearing that renews the order for another 6-month period.
- You must find a way to resolve the situation, even after the restraining order is granted because these orders aren’t meant to be in effect permanently. Whether you choose to press criminal charges against the defendant is your choice, but a lawyer with restraining order experience can help you build a case.
Temporary Restraining Orders
If you feel that your life or property may be under immediate threat during the time you file the paperwork for a pending restraining order and the date of your hearing, a court may grant you a temporary restraining order (TRO).
To receive a TRO, you have to prove that the defendant is an immediate threat to your safety, and can bar the defendant from contact for 14 days, able to be extended another 14 days if necessary. The defendant will be notified through process of service in person or by mail.
The Bottom Line
When you’re being stalked or harassed, you may feel like you’re living in fear and losing control of your independence. A restraining order can help add a little peace of mind to your daily routine and give you some time to decide what you want your next steps to be.
If you feel unsafe, make a call to the Kent Collins Law Firm. We’ll help you review your unique situation and build the strongest case possible.
Contact us today for a free in-person consultation. Call 803-808-0905 or click here to send us an email.