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June 28, 2019

Filing an Emergency Order of Protection

Domestic violence is all too prevalent in today’s society, and its victims often need immediate help to stay safe. A Protection From Abuse order is a legal remedy that can provide relief by prohibiting the offender from abusing, stalking, harassing or threatening the victim. It’s possible to get a PFA order issued quickly in an emergency.

A Domestic Violence PFA Protects Against Other Household Members

In South Carolina, a PFA order is known as an Order of Protection and is issued by a Family Court judge. The PFA applies to abusers who are household members, which encompasses spouses, former spouses, people who have children in common, a male and female who live together and a male and female who have lived together in the past. If the abuser is a non-household member, the victim should file for a restraining order, which is issued by a magistrate.

What Is the Process for Filing an Emergency PFA?

The first step in obtaining an Order of Protection is going to the family court clerk in the county where you wish to file. In South Carolina, that can be any one of the following:

  • The county where the abusive act occurred
  • The county where the victim currently resides or is sheltered
  • The county where the abuser resides
  • The county where the abuser and victim last lived together

The clerk will provide the necessary forms to complete, along with the instructions for filing them (there is no fee when filing a domestic violence PFA in South Carolina). If you feel you’re in imminent danger, ask for an emergency hearing. If the family court judge believes that you’re at immediate risk, they may schedule the hearing and issue the PFA order within 24 hours.

For the judge to issue the PFA order, you’ll need to prove “by the preponderance of the evidence” that the abuser committed bodily injury, assault, the threat of physical harm or sexual offenses. If you prove your case, the judge can take a variety of actions, such as restraining the abuser from attempting to communicate with you, requiring the abuser to pay temporary financial support and determining temporary child custody and visitation arrangements.

What Should You Do in the Meantime?

If you believe you’re in danger while waiting for your hearing, go to a safe place, such as a trusted friend or family member’s home. If you’re in Charleston, contact the Charleston Police Department — the police may be able to provide some protection until your court date. If you’re hurt, seek medical treatment and document your injuries by taking pictures. The photos can assist you and your attorney in subsequent legal procedures.

Contact a Lawyer for Help With Filing an Emergency PFA

Due to the urgency of the circumstances and the complex legal issues involved, you should seek guidance from an experienced attorney when you’re filing an emergency PFA. If you’re in the Charleston area, Lauren Taylor Law can provide the expert help you need. Contact us right away if you’re facing a domestic violence PFA situation.