The Protection from Domestic Abuse Act is a law in South Carolina to protect wives and husbands, former spouses, children and other close relatives from physical harm, threat of harm or criminal sexual conduct by providing help through family court to get a protective order. Physical abuse occurs in various forms - being kicked, punched, slapped, shoved, sexually molested or harmed bodily in any way.

The person who has been abused or threatened with abuse can ask for help from family court under the civil laws. If the abused or threatened person is under age 18 another family member can ask the family court for help.

You do not need a lawyer to get a protective order. Go to the clerk of court in the county where the abuser lives, where you last lived together or where you live if you cannot find the abuser. The clerk of court can give you forms to file your own papers and will schedule a hearing on the matter. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, the clerk will show you how to file without a fee.

During times when the court is closed, you may go to a magistrate to get a protective order. A protective order issued by the family court can tell the abuser to stop abusing you and to leave the home. Family court orders can also order temporary child custody, child support and visitation rights, and possession of your personal items such as clothes and medicine. Protective orders issued by magistrates are more limited and can only tell the abuser to stop abusing you.
You do not have to file for divorce to get a six month protective order. The parts of the order about support, custody, visitation and personal property last only 60 days if you do not file for divorce or legal separation.

If you have a lawyer and have already filed for divorce or separation, your lawyer can ask the court for an emergency protective order if you need it.
When you go to court for the hearing, try to take with you witnesses, pictures of your injuries, police reports, medical reports, your financial information and any other evidence you have to prove that you were abuse.

A copy of any protective order issued will be mailed to you, the abuser, and the local law enforcement agency where you live. The sheriff's department can help see that this protective order is enforced.

If the abuser violates your protective order, immediately contact the police, the clerk of court or your lawyer. It is a crime to violate this order; the sentence can be up to 30 days in jail or a fine of $200. It also could be contempt of court to violate a protective order; the punishment is up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $1500 and/or 300 hours community service.

In addition to the relief discussed above under the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act, separate criminal charges for criminal domestic violence may be filed against your abuser. This relief is available not only to family members but also persons who live together or who live together but never been married. To file criminal charges, contact your local magistrate. If convicted, the abuser can be fine up to $200 or imprisoned for up to 30 days. Repeat offenders face greater penalties.

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.