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The Guide to South Carolina Court Records

Overview of South Carolina Courts

The South Carolina trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, Family Courts, Probate Courts, Magistrates Courts, Municipal Courts, and Court Notes.
 
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases and generally handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. Family Courts, Probate Courts, Magistrates Courts, and Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases.

Please select a South Carolina county below to view directory of all courts with links to court record resources for each court.
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South Carolina Circuit Courts
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but typically only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.

Circuit Courts are divided into two main divisions. The Court of Common Pleas division handles civil cases, and the Court of General Sessions division handles criminal cases.

Criminal cases heard by the General Sessions division include felonies and some misdemeanors. Some Circuit Courts may have a subdivision of the General Sessions division for prosecution of first offense charges related to domestic violence.

Civil cases heard by Circuit Courts include most general civil claims for more than $7500. Circuit Courts share civil jurisdiction with Magistrates Courts over certain types of general civil claims for less than $7500, including contract claims, damages to real or personal property, penalties or fines or forfeitures, attachment of property for debts. Circuit Courts also share jurisdiction with Magistrates Courts for certain types of cases without financial limits on claims, including some landlord-tenant cases, some bonds, confessions of judgment, interpleader and cases involving rented personal property. Civil cases with counterclaims beyond the jurisdictional limits of a Magistrates Court will be transferred to Circuit Court.

Some Circuit Courts have a Business Court division that handles certain complex business or commercial cases.

Circuit Courts also handle some domestic relations cases, including annulments, divorce, and related child custody, child support and alimony cases. A Circuit Court may transfer domestic relations cases to Family Court.

Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with Probate Courts over several types of cases, including cases that involve a power of attorney and cases requesting the approval of settlements in wrongful death cases or the approval of settlements of claims for less than $10,000 in favor or against a minor or incapacitated person. Circuit Courts have exclusive jurisdiction to approve settlements of claims for more than $10,000 in favor or against a minor or incapacitated person.

Circuit Courts also have jurisdiction over formal proceedings for the probate of wills and appointment of personal representatives, the construction of wills, disputes over title to real estate, trusts, jury trials when the amount in dispute is more than $5,000, and cases related to the South Carolina Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. If part of a probate case is removed to Circuit Court, the Probate Court will generally continue to have jurisdiction over the remaining parts of the case.
South Carolina Family Courts
Family Courts have jurisdiction over most domestic relations cases, most juvenile cases, some mental health cases and most domestic violence abuse protection cases.

Cases typically handled by a Family Court include divorce, legal separation, annulment, child custody, child visitation, child support, alimony, division of marital property, domestic abuse protection orders, foster care, termination of parental rights, guardianship of a minor, adoption and name changes.

Family Courts handle most cases involving child custody. Circuit Courts share jurisdiction over annulments and divorce cases, including related matters such as child custody, child support and alimony. Circuit Courts may transfer cases to Family Courts.

Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over child neglect, child abandonment, children beyond the control of their parent or custodian and most cases involving juveniles alleged to have violated a state or local law or municipal ordinance. Juvenile delinquency cases handled by a Family Court include most violations of state law or municipal ordinances, although juvenile traffic, fish and game, and watercraft violations may be handled by Magistrates Courts or Municipal Courts. Some criminal cases will be transferred to Circuit Court for prosecution of a juvenile as an adult.

Family Courts share jurisdiction with Probate Courts over certain types of cases, including paternity, common-law marriage and some marital agreements, to the extent that these cases are related to pending Probate Court cases involving estates, trusts, guardianships, or conservatorships.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over the treatment and commitment of children with serious mental health issues, but this jurisdiction is limited to the extent it conflicts with Probate Court jurisdiction over mental health cases.

Magistrates have jurisdiction over requests for domestic abuse protection orders if the Family Court is closed or not in session. In some counties, Magistrates Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over criminal domestic violence cases. In the City of Orangeburg, the Municipal Court has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal domestic violence cases.
South Carolina Probate Courts
Probate Courts generally handle probate matters such as wills, estates and trusts. Probate Courts also handle guardianships, conservatorships and involuntary commitments. Probate Courts share some jurisdiction over certain types of cases with Circuit Courts and Family Courts.

Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with Probate Courts over several types of cases, including cases that involve a power of attorney and cases requesting approval of settlements in wrongful death cases or the approval of settlements of claims for less than $10,000 in favor or against a minor or incapacitated person. Circuit Courts have exclusive jurisdiction to approve settlements of claims for more than $10,000 in favor or against a minor or incapacitated person.

In some circumstances, a Circuit Court will exercise jurisdiction over certain types of probate cases, including formal proceedings for the probate of wills and appointment of personal representatives, the construction of wills, disputes over title to real estate, trusts, jury trials when the amount in dispute is more than $5,000 and cases related to the South Carolina Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. If part of a probate case is removed to Circuit Court, the Probate Court will generally continue to have jurisdiction over the remaining parts of the case.

Family Courts share jurisdiction with Probate Courts over certain types of cases, including paternity, common-law marriage and some marital agreements, to the extent that these cases are related to pending Probate Court cases involving estates, trusts, guardianships, or conservatorships.

Family Courts have jurisdiction over the treatment and commitment of children with serious mental health issues, but this jurisdiction is limited to the extent it conflicts with Probate Court jurisdiction over mental health cases.
South Carolina Magistrates Courts
Magistrates Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases. Magistrates Courts may be referred to as "Summary Courts."

Criminal cases heard by Magistrates Courts include preliminary hearings for most criminal cases and criminal cases punishable by limited fines or short terms of incarceration. Cases typically heard by Magistrates Courts include fraudulent checks, shoplifting, domestic violence, some cases involving assault or battery or breach of the peace, larceny involving less than $1000, receiving stolen goods, false pretenses, and traffic and fish and game law violations. Some Magistrates Courts will handle municipal ordinance violations with the agreement of a municipality.

Magistrates Courts have exclusive criminal jurisdiction when the punishment does not exceed a fine of $100 or imprisonment for 30 days. Magistrates Court share jurisdiction with Circuit Courts when the punishment exceeds those limits. In addition, Magistrates Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all first-offense criminal domestic violence cases, except within the City of Orangeburg. If a case is transferred from Circuit Court to Municipal Court by agreement of the State and the defendant, fines up to $5,500 or imprisonment up to one year may be imposed.

Civil cases heard by Magistrates Courts include most general civil claims for less than $7500, including contract claims, damages to real or personal property, penalties or fines or forfeitures, attachment of property for debts. Magistrates Courts also handle certain types of claims without financial limits, including some landlord-tenant cases, some bonds, confessions of judgment, interpleader and cases involving rented personal property.

Magistrates Courts do not have jurisdiction over most civil cases when the State is a party and most cases that involve disputes over title to real estate. Civil cases with counterclaims beyond the jurisdictional limits for Magistrates Court are transferred to Circuit Court.

Magistrates Courts share jurisdiction with Family Courts over some cases involving juvenile violations of traffic, fish and game, and watercraft ordinances. Magistrates Courts have jurisdiction over requests for domestic abuse protection orders if the Family Court is closed or not in session.

In some counties with multiple Magistrates Courts, a centralized court hears all criminal domestic violence cases, except within the City of Orangeburg.
South Carolina Municipal Courts
Municipal Courts are created by municipal councils and have limited jurisdiction over certain types of criminal offenses.

Some cities and towns have voted for municipal ordinances to be heard in Magistrates Courts or through a contract with a County Magistrate. Both Municipal Courts and Magistrates Courts are referred to as "Summary Courts," but Municipal Courts handle fewer types of cases than Magistrates Courts.

Criminal cases heard by Municipal Courts include traffic and other municipal code violations and certain criminal offenses. Municipal Courts normally may impose fines up to $500 or imprisonment up to 30 days; but if a case is transferred from Circuit Court to Municipal Court by agreement of the State and the defendant, fines up to $5,500 or imprisonment up to one year may be imposed.

In the City of Orangeburg, the Municipal Court has exclusive jurisdiction over first-offense criminal domestic violence cases.

Municipal Courts have no jurisdiction over civil cases.

Municipal Courts share jurisdiction with Family Courts over juvenile violations or traffic, fish and game, and watercraft ordinances.
South Carolina Court Notes
Some South Carolina judicial districts or counties operate specialized court programs such as Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and Veterans Court. These programs can set up treatment in lieu of incarceration for some offenders with substance abuse or mental health problems.

Many South Carolina judicial districts or counties operate diversion programs such as Pre-Trial Intervention, Alcohol Education, and Traffic Education, which can result in dismissal of charges for some non-violent first offenders.

Where to find court cases in South Carolina
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of court in South Carolina.
 
Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil Circuit Courts Family Courts Probate Courts Magistrates Courts Municipal Courts
General Civil - Unlimited
Most or all General Civil - Unlimited cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
Some General Civil - Unlimited cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
General Civil - Limited
Some General Civil - Limited cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
Most or all General Civil - Limited cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
Small Claims
 
 
 
Most or all Small Claims cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
Civil Equity
Most or all Civil Equity cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
 
 
Complex Commercial
Most or all Complex Commercial cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
 
 
Foreclosures and Liens
Most or all Foreclosures and Liens cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
Some Foreclosures and Liens cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
Real Estate Title and Boundary
Most or all Real Estate Title and Boundary cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Some Real Estate Title and Boundary cases can be found in the Family Courts
Some Real Estate Title and Boundary cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 
Landlord / Tenant
Some Landlord / Tenant cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
Most or all Landlord / Tenant cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
Ordinance Violations
 
 
 
Some Ordinance Violations cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Some Ordinance Violations cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders
Some Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
Some Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
Administrative Agency Appeals
Most or all Administrative Agency Appeals cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Some Administrative Agency Appeals cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Criminal Circuit Courts Family Courts Probate Courts Magistrates Courts Municipal Courts
Felony
Most or all Felony cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
 
 
Felony Preliminary Hearings
 
 
 
Most or all Felony Preliminary Hearings cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Some Felony Preliminary Hearings cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Misdemeanors
Some Misdemeanors cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
 
Some Misdemeanors cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Some Misdemeanors cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Ordinance Violations
 
 
 
Some Ordinance Violations cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Most or all Ordinance Violations cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Juvenile
Some Juvenile cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Juvenile cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
Some Juvenile cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Some Juvenile cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Traffic and Infractions
 
Some Traffic and Infractions cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
Some Traffic and Infractions cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Most or all Traffic and Infractions cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Domestic Relations Circuit Courts Family Courts Probate Courts Magistrates Courts Municipal Courts
Divorce
Some Divorce cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Divorce cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Child Custody and Visitation
Some Child Custody and Visitation cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Child Custody and Visitation cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Child Support
Some Child Support cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Child Support cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Paternity
Some Paternity cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Paternity cases can be found in the Family Courts
Some Paternity cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 
Domestic Violence Protection Order
Some Domestic Violence Protection Order cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Domestic Violence Protection Order cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
Some Domestic Violence Protection Order cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
 
Juvenile Circuit Courts Family Courts Probate Courts Magistrates Courts Municipal Courts
Adoptions
 
Most or all Adoptions cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Juvenile Delinquency
Some Juvenile Delinquency cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Juvenile Delinquency cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
Some Juvenile Delinquency cases can be found in the Magistrates Courts
Some Juvenile Delinquency cases can be found in the Municipal Courts
Child Abuse and Neglect
 
Most or all Child Abuse and Neglect cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Termination of Parental Rights
 
Most or all Termination of Parental Rights cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Children in Need of Supervision
 
Most or all Children in Need of Supervision cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Mental Health Circuit Courts Family Courts Probate Courts Magistrates Courts Municipal Courts
Involuntary Commitments
 
Some Involuntary Commitments cases can be found in the Family Courts
Most or all Involuntary Commitments cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 
Other Mental Health Cases
Some Other Mental Health Cases cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Some Other Mental Health Cases cases can be found in the Family Courts
Some Other Mental Health Cases cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 
Probate Circuit Courts Family Courts Probate Courts Magistrates Courts Municipal Courts
Wills & Estates
Some Wills & Estates cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
Most or all Wills & Estates cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 
Name Changes
Some Name Changes cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Most or all Name Changes cases can be found in the Family Courts
 
 
 
Trusts
Some Trusts cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
 
Most or all Trusts cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 
Guardianships and Conservatorships
Some Guardianships and Conservatorships cases can be found in the Circuit Courts
Some Guardianships and Conservatorships cases can be found in the Family Courts
Most or all Guardianships and Conservatorships cases can be found in the Probate Courts
 
 

Note: Some courts in South Carolina are not included in the chart above. Please use the following links for descriptions and types of cases heard:
 
  Court Notes

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