No More "Cohabitating" Domestic Violence

In a major decision issued today by the South Carolina Supreme Court, individuals should no longer be arrested or prosecuted for domestic violence simply because they now or were formally living together.

S.C. Code § 16-25-10 requires that a special relationship that the law calls “household member” must exist in order to support a domestic violence charge. Based on this latest ruling, which affects all pending domestic violence charges, only the following types of relationships qualify:

  • Spouse
  • Former spouse
  • Persons who have a child in common.

The Supreme Court ruling struck the part of the law providing for domestic violence in cases where a couple currently or formally lived together.

This is of significant importance to you if you have any current domestic violence charge (DV 3rd Degree, 2nd Degree, 1st Degree, or DVHAN), and you and the alleged victim were never married.

There remain significant challenges if the prosecution intends on trying to prove “having a child in common” for unmarried couples, especially in situations where there is not an existing Family Court order finding paternity (such as a child support order). Basically, it may be impossible in many circumstances to legally prove paternity in these cases.

If you think that you may be affected by this change in the law it is important that you immediately consult with an attorney before making any decisions or going to court. The attorneys at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, are available to consult with those with pending domestic violence charges that have questions about how this important legal ruling might affect their case.

UPDATE

The South Carolina Supreme Court quickly issued a stay, delaying the effect of this legal ruling. However because the court could put this ruling back into effect it is still important to continue to object to domestic violence arrests based solely on cohabitation.

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