Domestic violence is an issue that can affect couples, both married and unwed. South Carolina law refers to a “household member” as a current or former spouse, a current or former cohabitate, or persons who have a child in common. It is unlawful to inflict, or attempt to inflict, physical harm against a household member. If you have been a victim of domestic violence you should not wait to tell someone.
The first offense of domestic violence is treated as misdemeanor, and if convicted, the aggressor will be fined between one thousand dollars and two thousand five hundred dollars and sentenced up to thirty days in jail. A second offense is also deemed a misdemeanor and met with heavier consequences: a fine of no less than two thousand five hundred dollars to not exceed five thousand dollars and a jail sentence of no less than thirty days and no more than a year. In the case of a second offense, fines may be absolved by completing a program for batterers, but the minimum thirty-day jail sentence is mandatory.
A third or subsequent offense is treated as a felony in the state of South Carolina, with a jail sentence of no less than a year with up to a maximum of five years.
The occurrence of domestic violence can affect visitation rights for household members who have a child and can also be grounds for divorce. Although one instance of physical cruelty may not be sufficient to file for a divorce, domestic violence may well be grounds for divorce in the state of South Carolina.
Even if convicted, the batterer can still obtain child custody or visitation rights, given the court finds that person’s spouse, cohabitate, or the mother/father of his/her child who was the victim of domestic violence will be safe from harm.
However, visitation can be confined to many different limitations. These limitations may include court-ordered, scheduled visitations, which are supervised by a third party at a specific time and place. A parent found guilty of domestic violence may also be restricted from overnight visits, ordered to attend a counseling program or asked to pay a refundable bond to ensure the safety of the child.
Victims of domestic violence are encouraged to not only seek legal help, but also personal help by reaching out to an organization who can provide support and insight as well as temporary housing.
In Charleston, the following organizations can help:
Charleston Domestic Violence Services
180 Lockwood Boulevard
Charleston, SC 29403
Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center
My Sister’s House
P.O. Box 5341
North Charleston, SC 29405
McCoy & Stokes focuses on both family law and criminal law. If you or a spouse are facing charges related to domestic violence – or you have been a victim of domestic violence – contact us so that we may discuss both the family and criminal implications of your situation.
To learn more your rights, contact McCoy & Stokes today at (843) 628-2855 to schedule your consultation with experienced Charleston family lawyers.