Domestic violence can happen to anyone. While men are most often the perpetrators of domestic violence in Maryland and women most often the victims, both men and women commit acts of domestic abuse and experience abuse. Domestic violence cuts across lines of not only sex and gender, but sexual orientation, race, age, religion, and socioeconomic status.

Most people who experience domestic violence in Maryland never expect to find themselves in an abusive relationship, and getting out can be difficult. Often, domestic violence victims are ashamed of their situation. Frequently, abusers isolate their victims socially and make them financially dependent, which makes it more difficult for them to leave.

Whatever the reason or circumstances, if you are living with domestic violence, you deserve security and safety. A skilled Maryland domestic violence attorney can help you find it.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Maryland?

The thing that distinguishes domestic violence from assault is the nature of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. In order for abusive or violent behavior to constitute domestic violence, the victim and abuser must have one of the following relationships:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Had a sexual relationship and lived together for at least 90 days within the past year
  • Had a sexual relationship within the past year
  • Have a child in common
  • Are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Are parent and child or stepparent and stepchild and have lived together for at least 90 days within the past year
  • One party committed rape or sexual assault or attempted rape or sexual assault against the other within the previous six months.

If you are in an intimate partner, family, or other relationship described above with a person from whom you want protection, you can seek a Maryland domestic violence protective order. If none of the above relationships apply, protection may still be available in the form of a different order called a “peace order.”

Proving Domestic Violence in Maryland

If you are seeking a protective order against someone, or someone has applied for a protective order against you, one of the following must be proven:

  • An act that caused serious bodily harm
  • An act that put the petitioner (person applying for the protective order) in fear of imminent harm
  • Assault in any degree
  • Rape or other sexual offense, or attempted rape or sexual offense
  • False imprisonment
  • Criminal stalking
  • Revenge porn (distribution of revealing or sexually explicit images, usually of a partner or former partner, on the internet)

It is not necessary that a person has already suffered physical abuse in order to successfully petition for a protective order against another person (called the respondent), but a petitioner must be able to give the court reason to believe that the protective order is necessary

How to Get a Domestic Violence Protective Order in Maryland

If you are in immediate danger, your first priority is, of course, to get to safety. You can then file a petition for a protective order. The necessary forms are available from any circuit, District Court clerk, or District Court commissioner. They can be filed during business hours with a circuit or District Court clerk. If necessary, a petition for a protective order can be filed electronically from a hospital, domestic violence assistance program, or certain other locations.

A judge will hear your case soon after your petition is filed. If courts are closed a District Court commissioner can issue an interim protective order. An interim protective order will take effect when served on the respondent. When courts are open, you will appear before a judge and answer questions under oath. If the judge reasonably believes the harm you alleged in your petition took place, they will grant a temporary protective order, which is good for seven days after being served on the respondent by a law enforcement officer.

Within those seven days, a final hearing will be scheduled. Both the petitioner and the respondent have the right to be present at the final hearing and to present evidence. However, even if the respondent doesn’t appear at the hearing, a judge can still grant a protective order if the evidence shows it is more likely than not that the respondent committed the acts described in the petition.

If a final protective order (FPO) is granted, it can be in effect for one year. The court may extend the term of the FPO for six months. Under some circumstances, an FPO can be granted for as long as two years. If a person has been a respondent in a previous interim, temporary, or final protective order and has been sentenced to at least five years in prison for an act related to that order, the court can issue a permanent protective order (PPO).

If You Have Been Accused of Domestic Violence in Maryland

If you have been accused of domestic violence in Maryland, especially within the context of a family law case such as a divorce or child custody matter, do not ignore the allegations. Even if they are completely false, failing to challenge them can affect your rights, including:

  • Your freedom
  • Your access to the marital home or a home you shared with a partner
  • Custody and access to children you share with the petitioner
  • Your employment
  • Your reputation and relationships
  • Your ability to possess a firearm
  • Your immigration status

Whether or not allegations of domestic violence that have been made against you are true, you still deserve a fair legal process. An experienced Maryland domestic violence attorney can help protect your rights.

Work with a Skilled Maryland Domestic Violence Lawyer

Whether you have been a victim of domestic violence or you have been accused of violence by a spouse, partner, or family member, there is a lot on the line. The outcome of these cases depends heavily on the facts and evidence presented to the court. It can be very difficult to stand in the courtroom with your abuser or accuser and effectively communicate all that you need to say. A skilled Maryland family law attorney can not only advocate for you, but offer you the support you need at a very difficult time.

To learn more about domestic violence in Maryland and the protective order process, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.