How to Obtain Court Records in South Carolina
Specialized court divisions including probate, municipal, and magistrate are courts of limited jurisdiction in South Carolina. The magistrate and municipal divisions handle narrowly-defined aspects of law such as small claims civil cases under $7,500, traffic matters, violations of city ordinances, and misdemeanor criminal cases. Probate courts handle guardianships, mental health and drug addiction commitments, estates and wills.
Above these courts is the general jurisdiction circuit court that holds trials, family court, and masters-in-equity court. Masters-in-equity are specialty courts that take cases as assigned by the circuit court and have all of the jurisdiction of a normal session of circuit court.
The intermediate appellate court hears disputes over decisions of lower courts. The state supreme court has jurisdiction over death penalty cases, election issues, appeals of state administrative agency decisions, challenges to the constitutionality of state laws, and disputes over appellate court decisions.
Requesting court records
There are many circumstances under which having a court document can be helpful, such as proving you’ve served your probation or parole, clarifying child custody, or claiming property awarded in a settlement. To request records from a court, first you must have the case number. Start by searching here: http://www.sccourts.org/casesearch/. Next, contact the clerk of the court where the case was heard by using this page: http://www.sccourts.org/clerks/roster_map.cfm.
Some court documents may be considered confidential due to the inclusion of sensitive information such as the names of juveniles or crime victims or medical information. Clerks may withhold or redact such documents to comply with the law. Probate courts deal with mental illness, guardianships and wills and estates, overseeing the division of property and assets of the deceased to heirs. To research probate records start by searching here: http://www.sccourts.org/casesearch/. Contact the clerk’s office to request documents: http://www.sccourts.org/clerks/roster_map.cfm.
Child custody and support, alimony, and the division of shared assets are all issues covered by a decree, the official document that is a ‘roadmap’ of a divorce. It’s important to keep a copy following the dissolution of a marriage as it can clarify issues that arise. Contact the clerk of the family court where your divorce was granted in order to request a copy: http://www.sccourts.org/clerks/roster_map.cfm.
Businesses and individuals that cannot make enough money to pay creditors often declare bankruptcy. This is a process overseen by a federal court, not a state court. There are federal courts, known as U.S. District Courts, located in each state. These courts handle bankruptcies, federal criminal trials, and civil lawsuits that involved multiple states or residents of multiple states. To research a federal court case, go to www.pacer.gov.