Young Couple Arguing and Fighting. Domestic Violence Scene of Emotional abuse, Stressed Woman and aggressive Man Having Almost Violent Argument in a Dark Claustrophobic Hallway of Apartment.

Allegations of domestic violence have a profound impact on the person making them, the accused, and others in the household–including children. These allegations sometimes arise in the context of a separation, divorce, or child custody matter. Someone who has been threatened with, or experienced abuse, may need to seek a Maryland domestic violence protective order.

Whether you are seeking help for family or intimate partner abuse, or you have been accused of domestic violence, you should understand the laws surrounding domestic violence protective orders in Maryland, and what to expect from the process.

Who Can Get a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

Maryland courts will issue a domestic violence protective order to individuals who have suffered abuse causing serious bodily harm. These orders, also known as “civil protection orders,” can also be issued if the alleged abuser (the respondent) has put the person requesting the protective order (the petitioner) in fear of assault (including sexual assault), serious bodily harm, stalking, or false imprisonment.

In many cases, the parties to a protective order case are romantic partners, but not always. One person can get a domestic violence protective order against another if they are in certain relationships to one another, including:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Have, or have had, a sexual relationship within the previous year before filing the petition
  • Co-parents of a child
  • Parent and child or stepparent and stepchild who have lived together for at least 90 days in the past year
  • Family members, including children, whether by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Living together in a sexual relationship for at least 90 days in the last year
  • Caretaker and vulnerable adult
  • The person seeking the protective order alleges that the respondent committed sexual assault or attempted sexual assault against him or her within the previous six months

If an alleged victim and abuser do not fall into any of the above categories, a petitioner cannot get a domestic violence protective order, but may be eligible for a peace order, which offers many of the same protections.

What Type of Behavior Calls for a Protective Order

To expand on the types of abuse mentioned above, a Maryland domestic violence protective order is available to people who have experienced:

  • An act causing serious bodily harm. This might include shooting, stabbing, or striking with an object, but also choking or strangling, biting, kicking, and shoving.
  • Threats of harm or other acts that would place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
  • Assault
  • Rape or sexual assault, including attempted sexual assault
  • False imprisonment
  • Stalking
  • Revenge porn
  • Physical abuse of a minor child
  • Mental injury to a minor child. Note, this is defined by Maryland courts as an “observable, identifiable, and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function caused by an intentional act or series of acts, regardless of whether there was an intent to harm the child.”
  • Vulnerable adult abuse

If you have experienced a type of abuse listed here, and you are in one of the relationships listed above with your abuser, you are eligible to receive a domestic violence protective order.

How Do I Obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order?

Most court processes take some time, but because most people seeking a protective order could be in immediate danger, things can move much more quickly. If immediate protection is needed and the courts are closed, an interim protective order can be obtained at any hour of the day or night from the District Court Commissioner’s office.

An interim protective order expires at the end of the second business day after it was issued, or at a court hearing for a temporary protective order, which typically takes place within a few days after the issuance of the interim order. The temporary protective order hearing will be held at the court where the interim protective order was provided and may expand the protections offered in the interim order for a few days longer. Be aware, if the respondent has been served with the interim order, they may attend this hearing, but will not be permitted to put on the temporary protective order hearing.

Ultimately, there is a final protective order hearing which can extend protection on a long-term basis. The reason that there are multiple hearings is so that a petitioner can get help on an emergency basis, but also so that the respondent has the ability to appear and present a defense. The evidentiary standard at the final protective order hearing is much higher and simply alleging abuse will not grant the petitioner a final protective order – it is at this trial that a party accused of abuse has the chance to tell his or her perspective of the events and put on evidence that the claims are false. An attorney experienced in Maryland domestic violence matters can help ensure that the court understands what is happening between the parties and grants appropriate relief.

What Relief is Available with a Maryland Protective Order?

Depending on the circumstances, there are a number of things the court can order a respondent to do or not do as a result of a final protective order. While courts want to protect victims of abuse, they also do not want to create unreasonable restrictions that will unfairly disrupt a respondent’s life or grant protective orders that are not appropriate. Whether you are a petitioner seeking a protective order, or a respondent accused of abuse, having legal representation will ensure that the relief ordered by the court, if any, is appropriate. That relief may include ordering the respondent:

  • Not to abuse or threaten the petitioner
  • Not to harass, contact, or attempt to contact the petitioner
  • To vacate a home shared with the petitioner
  • Not to enter the petitioner’s residence
  • To stay away from the petitioner’s home and that of any of their family members
  • To stay away from the petitioner’s place of employment or school, or any residence where the petitioner is temporarily staying
  • To stay away from a childcare provider caring for the petitioner’s child
  • To participate in an investigation by Child Protective Services
  • To surrender any firearms.

In addition, the court may award the petitioner temporary custody of any minor children shared with the alleged abuser, as well as awarding payment of emergency family maintenance (financial support), and temporary use and possession of the home and/or vehicle. If there is a pet, the court may also order temporary possession of the pet. This is important because many abusers threaten harm to a beloved pet in order to prevent a victim from leaving the abusive situation.

How Does Domestic Violence Litigation Affect My Family Law Case?

If you are in the middle of a divorce or custody case, a domestic violence matter can have a significant impact upon the outcome of that case. If you or your children have been victims of abuse, having a protective order may impact whether and how the respondent can see the children, and may result in you having sole custody of the children during the period of the final protective order.

If you are a respondent who has been accused of abuse, you must take the domestic violence litigation process seriously. This is true even, or perhaps especially, if the allegations made against you are false. If you do not successfully refute allegations of abuse, you may find your access to your children, and your home, severely restricted.

Whether you have experienced abuse or are being accused of abuse, it is important to have an experienced family law attorney to protect your interests. We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield without delay to discuss your concerns.

Categories: Domestic Violence