If one of your personal relationships has recently become unruly in South Carolina, you may worry that the other party may seek a protective or restraining order against you. You may fear what this process could mean or how it might show up on your background check and criminal record. Or you may worry that you will not have a chance to defend yourself.
Understanding state laws about restraining and protective orders can help you plan ahead if you find yourself facing one.
Order of protection
In South Carolina, orders of protection and restraining orders are similar in practice, but the primary difference is the relationship between the parties. Orders of protection are exclusively for current or former spousal and romantic relationships — including co-parents and live-in partners.
If someone wishes to seek an order of protection against you, he or she may request a temporary order and can generally obtain one within 24 hours that will last through any subsequent hearings before a judge makes a determination.
You will be able to defend yourself before a judge, and the other party will have the opportunity to present, as well. Either of you may bring evidence corroborating your story, and the judge will make a determination based on what he or she believes to be reasonable and fair.
In South Carolina, if the other party is able to convince a judge to grant an order of protection, this will give him or her temporary custody of any children you have, may require you to pay child support payments, will turn your residence over to the other party and may even cause you to lose access to some of your assets.
If the other party is not a qualifying current or former romantic partner, he or she may instead seek a restraining order. A restraining order, if the judge grants it, will last six months, during which time you will not be able to lawfully contact the other party. A judge may grant an extension if the other party files for a renewal and convinces the court that it is still necessary.
However, in order to acquire a restraining order, the other party must demonstrate at least two separate incidents of harassment, assault, abuse or threatening behavior. He or she may use police reports as evidence or produce other records or materials.
You will have the opportunity to present your side of the story to the judge, as well, during the hearing, and you may provide any relevant evidence. You can speak for yourself or have a lawyer speak on your behalf.
Effects on a record
While either of these situations may interrupt your life, rest assured that they are not criminal convictions. They generally will not show up on a criminal-background check unless you violate the order — then you could face a criminal conviction or contempt of court.
As with most court proceedings, however, when someone files for an order of protection or restraining order against you, it is a matter of public record. While it will not show up on a criminal screening for most jobs or housing applications, a more intensive check, such as one for security clearance or sensitive positions, could uncover these records.