Protective Orders in Maryland

Maryland courts are authorized by state law to issue interim protective orders, preliminary protective orders, and final protective orders in the event of domestic abuse, designed to keep the abuser from committing further acts against the abused. Maryland courts can also enter a protective order designed to protect children from harm, even where the harm does not rise to the level of domestic abuse.

Protective order cases are given priority on the court’s docket, so they generally move more quickly through the system to a final decision, which makes sense given the emergency nature of a domestic violence situation. Generally, it is less than a few weeks from the time someone files for a protective order to the time the court holds a final protective is general, although the amount of time can be extended for various reasons.

What are the grounds for a Protective Order? 

  • An act that causes serious bodily harm;

  • An act that places a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;

  • Assault;

  • Rape or sexual offense;

  • Attempted rape or sexual offense;

  • False imprisonment;

  • Stalking.

What is the difference between a Protective Order and a Peace Order?

The Petitioner’s relationship to the Respondent determines whether a Petition for a Protective Order or a Peace Order should be filed. A person cannot qualify for both.

A person that has any of the following relationships with the Respondent is eligible for a Protective Order:

  • Current or Former Spouse;

  • Child in common;

  • Cohabitant, meaning the parties lived together for 6 months or more in an intimate relationship;

  • Related by blood, adoption or marriage;

  • Parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild of Respondent or the person eligible for relief, who resides or resided with the Respondent or person eligible for relief for at least 90 days within 1 year prior to filing.

If the person does not have any of these relationships with the Respondent, then they are eligible for a Peace Order.

What is the process of getting a Protective Order in Maryland if you are the victim of domestic abuse?

Interim Protective Orders

An Interim Protective Order allows you to get immediate protection when the courts are closed. If you are the victim of domestic violence, and the courts are closed (for example, it is after business hours or on a weekend), then you may file a Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence with the Commissioner’s office at the District Court. The Commissioner’s office is open at all times, and are available in person or by telephone.

At the Commissioner’s office located in your county, you will complete the form Petition (you are the Petitioner), and will list all the reasons why you are asking for protection from domestic abuse.  It is important to list every example of domestic violence and threats; the history of abuse; all pending or previous court actions between you and your abuser; and all the relief you are requesting. If you are worried about your abuser figuring out where you are located, you do not need to disclose your address on the Petition. You can give an alternate address or just ask that your address remain confidential.

If you are also asking for financial support for yourself or for your children, you must make a request for Emergency Family Maintenance, and provide financial documentation at the time of the Final Protective Order hearing.

After submitting the Petition, you will appear before a Commissioner to explain your reasons for seeking a protective order, and you must show that you have reasonable grounds for the relief you are requesting, using photographs, witness testimony, police records, and other documents.

If you can show that you have reasonable grounds for the relief you are requesting, then the Commissioner may issue an Interim Protective Order, which can include the following provisions:

  • That the abuser stop abusing or threatening you;

  • That the abuser to stay away from you and to not try to contact you at your home, school, or job;

  • That the abuser stay away from your children’s school and your family members’ homes;

  • If you and the abuser are married and were living together, that the abuser leave the home;

  • If you and the abuser are married and were living together, an award of temporary custody;

  • If you and the abuser are NOT married, but were living together and your name is on the lease or deed for the home, that the abuser leave the home;

  • If you and the abuser are NOT married, but lived together for at least 90 days within the last year, that the abuser leave the home;

  • Temporary possession of any pet;

  • Any other relief that the Commissioner determines is necessary to protect you from abuse.

The Interim Protective Order will also state the date, time and location of the hearing for a Temporary Protective Order, and will give a tentative date, time and location of the hearing for a Final Protective Order. A law enforcement officer will then serve the abuser (who is the Respondent) with the Interim Protective Order.

You must attend the Temporary Protective Order hearing to extend the protective order.

Temporary Protective Order

A Temporary Protective Order allows you to get immediate protection when the courts are open. The Temporary Protective Order hearing can result from the Interim Protective Order, or from an initial Petition filed during normal court hours.

If you do not already have an Interim Protective Order, then you will need to go to the District Court Clerk’s office in your county to complete the Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence, and follow the steps above to list all the reasons you are requesting a protective order and the relief you are seeking.

If you already have an Interim Protective Order, then you do not need to go to the Clerk; instead, you will simply go to the courtroom where your Temporary Protective Order hearing is scheduled.

On the Petition, there will be a question asking whether there are any previous or pending court cases between yourself, the person you want protection for and the abuser, including divorce, custody, paternity, child support, paternity, domestic violence or criminal matters. If there is another court case, or the District Court finds another reason to transfer your case, then your protective order may go the Circuit Court. Otherwise, it will stay in the District Court.

Whether you already have an Interim Protective Order issued by the Commissioner, or you are submitting your Petition through the Clerk for the first time, you will appear before a Judge to explain your reasons for seeking a protective order. You must again show that you have reasonable grounds for the relief you are requesting, using photographs, witness testimony, police records, and other documents.

Usually, the Respondent is not present at the Temporary Protective Order hearing. But, if the abuser does show up, the Judge can either hold the Final Protective Order hearing at that time, or simply hold the Temporary Protective Order hearing with all parties present.

If you can show that you have reasonable grounds for the relief you are requesting, then the Judge may issue a Temporary Protective Order, which can include the same provisions that the Commissioner can order in an Interim Protective Order, with the added provision that the Judge can order the abuser to surrender any firearm to law enforcement authorities.

The Temporary Protective Order will also give the date, time and location of the Final Protective Order hearing. A law enforcement officer will then serve the abuser with the Temporary Protective Order.

You must attend the Final Protective Order hearing to extend the length of the protective order.

Final Protective Orders

A Final Protective Order allows you to get protection for a much longer period of time, generally up to one year (although this can be extended in certain situations).

At the Final Protection Order hearing, if the abuser has been served with a copy of the Temporary Protective Order but fails to appear for the hearing, you can still ask the Judge to enter a Final Protective Order.

If your abuser is present at the hearing, and when the case is called, both you and your abuser will have a chance to tell the Judge (not necessarily the same Judge) what happened that led you to file the Petition.  This is a formal hearing and the rules of evidence apply.  As the person seeking relief, you must show, through photographs, witness testimony, police records, and other documents and evidence, that it is more likely than not that the abuse occurred and that you are eligible for the relief you are requesting.

It is also important to present documentation and discuss reasons why you may need financial assistance during the period of time that the Final Protective Order is in place.

If you can prove that the abuse occurred, and that you are eligible for relief, then the Judge may issue a Final Protective Order, which can include any or all of the following provisions:

order any or all of the o the Judge that the abuse occurred, d the Judge finds that the abuse did occur, the Judge may order one (or all) of the following for up to one year:

  • That the abuser stop abusing or threatening to abuse you;

  • That the abuser to stay away from you and not try to contact you or harass you;

  • That the abuser stay out of your home;

  • That the abuser leave the home where the two of you live, in certain situations;

  • That the abuser stay away from your job, your school, the place where you may be staying, from your children’s school, and from your family members’ homes;

  • That you be given temporary custody of any children you have in common with the abuser;

  • That you be given temporary custody of any pets;

  • That the abuser pay you money to help support you while the Final Protective Order is in place;

  • That the abuser pay support for any children you have in common while the Protective Order is in place;

  • That you have sole use of a car you own with the abuser;

  • That the abuser participate in a domestic violence and/or substance abuse counseling program;

  • That the abuser surrender any firearms;

  • That the abuser stay away from a child care location;

  • Any other relief that a judge determines is necessary to protect you from abuse.

If the abuser continues to harass you or contacts you, you should call the police immediately!  If your abuser does not follow the Final Protective Order as it pertains to contact and harassment (i.e. not support), then he or she may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and be subjected to a fine of up to $500.00 or a jail sentence of up to 90 days.  The penalties are increased for a second and subsequent offense of violating the Final Protective Order.

Extending a Final Protective Order

The court may extend the length of a Final Protective Order under certain circumstances, as follows:  

  • After a hearing and for good cause shown, the court can extend the length of the Final Protective Order for up to 6 months.  

  • If the abuser abuses you while the Final Protective Order is in effect, the court can extend the length of the order for up to 2 years.  

  • If the abuser abuses you again within 1 year of the expiration of the Final Protective Order and the prior order was valid for at least 6 months, the court can award you another Final Protective Order for up to 2 years.

The Court may not, however, add any relief that was not previously ordered in the initial Final Protective Order. 

Circuit Court Orders

A later Circuit Court order that determines child custody, visitation, use and possession, and Emergency Family Maintenance will supersede those provisions contained in the Final Protective Order. 

Contact a Wayside Legal Protective Order Attorney

Wayside Legal LLC is an award-winning law firm located in North Bethesda, Maryland, with years of experience handling protective order cases throughout the state. If you are facing a protective order case in Maryland, or have been the victim of domestic abuse, contact a Wayside Legal attorney today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation.