If you are not in immediate danger but believe yourself to be in need of protection and the offender is either a member of your family or someone with which you cohabitate, you may wish to file a Domestic Abuse case. Cases involving Domestic Abuse are filed in Family Court. You do not have to have an attorney in order to file a Domestic Abuse case, but you will need to file the necessary paperwork at the Family Court offices.
When you come into Family Court for the purpose of filing a case for Domestic Abuse, you will need to bring a good address for the person against whom you are filing the case. This is necessary because your complaint must be served on the person you will be naming as the Defendant. You will also be asked to fill out papers that include a description of the incident or incidents which have led you to file the case. The incident(s) must have occurred within the last six months, must involve a member of your family residing with you (or a person with whom you cohabitate), and must be in the nature of actual physical abuse or threat of harm. You cannot file a Domestic Abuse case in a situation involving only destruction of, or threat of harm to, property alone.
Once you have completed the necessary paperwork, you will be given a court date for a hearing. This date is generally from 5 to 15 days from the time you file your case, since it is necessary for the defendant to be served with the summons and complaint. In special situations it may be possible to obtain an emergency order of protection within 24 hours, should the judge feel that such an order is warranted.
At the court hearing, an Order of Protection (sometimes referred to as a "restraining order") may be issued by the judge. Depending on your individual situation, the judge may also issue orders granting temporary alimony, child support, child custody, and possession of your home. These temporary orders may remain in effect for a period of 3 months to 1 year from the day they are issued. The purpose of the temporary orders is to give the plaintiff time to initiate additional legal action, such as a divorce or separation, or time for the defendant and/or plaintiff to seek counseling should they wish to pursue another course of action. Because each case is unique the exact outcome of any one case cannot be predicted.
If you are not in immediate danger but believe yourself to be in need of protection in a situation involving abuse, harassment, or "stalking" by someone who is not a member of your family you can apply for a restraining order. Restraining Orders may be obtained from a Magistrate's Court.
If you are witness to a crime, you should call 911 or contact one of the local law enforcement agencies listed at the top of this page. If you have not actually witnessed a crime, but have good reason to suspect that a child or adult has been the victim of abuse or neglect, you may wish to contact the South Carolina Department of Social Services. DSS has local offices in Charleston; the number for DSS Protective Services is 953-9422.
Adults: The mission of Adult Protective Services is to protect the health and welfare of elderly and disabled adults. Adult Protective Services are provided to individuals 18 years of age or older who are victims of actual or potential abuse, neglect, or exploitation. DSS is authorized, by the Omnibus Adult Protection Act of the South Carolina Code of Laws, to investigate all reports. DSS also provides services to meet the adults' basic needs and to ensure their safety.
Children: Persons who come to the attention of the Department of Social Services in need of protective services are those who are potentially abusive of their children or who are suspected of having abused or neglected their children. DSS caseworkers assess reports of child abuse/neglect to determine their validity. This includes determining whether the child is "at risk" of being abused or neglected and determining the family's need for support services.
Obscene or harassing phone calls should always be reported to your local police department. For further assistance in dealing with such calls, BellSouth customers may contact (843) 780-2969.
TTY Emergency number for persons with disabilities (843)744-3200
Emergency Medical Services
Charleston County Sheriff
Charleston City Police Dept.
North Charleston Police Dept.
Folly Beach Police Dept.
Isle of Palms Police Dept.
Mt. Pleasant Police Dept.
For emergency assistance, counseling services, legal advocacy, and information regarding your situation, the following offices and agencies may be able to help.
Can assist you in acquiring legal representation.
Provides assistance and information to victims of criminal acts, abuse, assault, etc.).
Provides assistance and counseling services for rape victims.
Provides free counseling services for victims and potential victims of domestic abuse, funded by the Department of Public Safety. Offender counseling services are also available and in compliance with DSS and the local courts's guidelines.
Phone: (843)744-1348 or (843)735-7802 or 1-800-232-6489
Provides emergency shelter for victims of domestic abuse, and those at-risk. Also provides counseling services and legal advocacy. Funded by South Carolina Department of Social Services.
Phone: (843)744-3242 or 1-800-273-HOPE
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