The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted normal court operations and services being offered to domestic violence survivors, but assistance is still available. The South Carolina Supreme Court has issued a number of court orders addressing how hearings should be handled. You can review them at https://www.sccourts.org/coronavirus/covid-19/. Emergency hearings are still being held in person and include such hearings as orders of protection, custody and visitation cases involving emergency issues, such as imminent threats of bodily harm or significant property loss. Non-emergency hearings are primarily being held via WebEx, which is an online platform. Parties may participate in the WebEx hearings using audio, if they do not have internet access. It is important to prepare for the WebEx hearings the same as if the hearing were held in person. Parties need to be appropriately dressed and in a quiet, distraction free space during all WebEx court proceedings.
The courts in South Carolina are divided by county into different circuits. Each circuit may have individual orders that apply for cases heard within it, so it is important to check to find out if there are any particular orders that apply in your area. Local Family Court orders can be found at https://www.sccourts.org/coronavirus/localorders/. The Administrative Judge for each circuit may also issue rules that are specific for how cases and motions are filed and heard and those particular rules can be obtained from the Clerk of Court within the individual county, or from the Administrative Judge’s assistant.
Order of protection hearings are still being scheduled and heard. South Carolina Legal Services has an online program to assist with completing applications for orders of protection at https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/resource/self-help-order-of-protection-forms. Local offices are also providing legal representation in order of protection cases. It is recommended to have legal representation at these hearings, if possible. The orders of protection can provide relief for up to one year including restraining orders, custody, child custody, child support, possession of the marital home, protection of pets and other requested relief.
Family Court in South Carolina is operating, although it is not business as usual. If you would like to apply for our free legal services, you may do so by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake.