Domestic Abuse

NOTICE: None of these questions and answers constitute legal advice. To obtain legal advice, consult with an attorney. This is especially important in divorce and family law matters, in which outcomes are often peculiar to the particular facts and circumstances of the case.

What is abuse?

Maryland law defines “abuse” as one or more of the following acts: (1) Assault (examples: hitting, pushing, pulling, grabbing, biting, and scratching). (2) An act that places the victim in fear of immediate serious bodily harm or actually causes the victim serious bodily harm (examples: throwing an object at the victim, putting a fist through a wall, breaking through a locked or closed door, blocking a victim’s exit from a room). (3) Attempted or actual rape or other sexual offense. (4) Stalking. (5) False imprisonment, such as holding the victim somewhere against the victim’s will. (6) Any act that would be considered child abuse under Maryland law.

What is a protective order?

A protective order is a court order that usually requires an abuser to stay away from a victim, forbids contact with a victim, and forbids more abuse. An interim, temporary or final protective order can set other limits on the abuser. Read the rest of these FAQs to find out more.

Who can get a protective order?

To get a protective order, the victim and accused abuser must have one of the following connections: (1) Current or former spouses. (2) Living together or have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year. (3) Related by blood, marriage, or adoption. (4) Parent and child, or stepparent and stepchild, of one another and have lived together for at least 90 days during the past year. (5) Have a child in common. (6) In addition, the caretaker of a child or vulnerable adult victim can file on behalf of the child or vulnerable adult.

What is the first step to get a protective order?

The victim files a petition under oath asking for a protective order.

Where is the petition for protection from domestic abuse filed?

If the Court is open, the petition is filed in a Maryland state court. If the Court is closed (after business hours and on weekends and holidays), the petition is filed with a police commissioner at the local police station.

What happens when a petition is filed?

If the Court is open, the petitioner goes before a judge to get a temporary protective order. If the Court is closed, the police commissioner on duty decides whether to issue an interim order; then, as soon as the Court opens, the petitioner goes before a Judge to get a temporary protective order.

When does an interim order go into effect and how long does it last?

An interim order goes into effect as soon as the abuser is served by a law enforcement officer. The interim order lasts until a judge holds a hearing on whether to issue a temporary protective order.

What is a temporary protective order hearing?

This is the first hearing in Court before a judge about the request for a protective order. The judge decides whether the claims of abuse by the victim call for a temporary protective order. If a temporary protective order is issued, a final protective order hearing is scheduled.

How long does a temporary protective order last?

A temporary protective order lasts for seven days or until the scheduled final protective order hearing

What rules can an interim or temporary protective order put on an accused abuser?

An interim or temporary protective order can require that the accused abuser:
(1) Not abuse or threaten to abuse the victim. (2) Not contact, try to contact, or harass the victim. (3) Stay away from home, school, job, or temporary residence of the victim. (4) Stay away from a child’s school, and from the homes of the victim’s family members. (5) Not enter the residence, and the grounds around the residence, of the victim. (6) Leave the residence of the victim if the victim and accused abuser live together. (7) Not have contact or visitation with any children of the victim and the accused. (8) Surrender any firearms the accused abuser has, depending on what abuse was claimed. (9) Not keep possession of a pet.

If a Judge issues a temporary protective order, how does the accused abuser find out?

Deputy sheriffs deliver the temporary protective order to the accused abuser together with a notice of when the final protective order hearing will occur. If the accused abuser shows up unexpectedly somewhere around the victim, any police officer can be called upon to hand the temporary protective order and hearing notice to the accused abuser.

What happens if the deputy sheriffs are unable to deliver the temporary protective order to the accused abuser before the final protective order hearing?

If the accused abuser is not served in time, the victim may ask the Court to extend the temporary protective order in order to give the deputy sheriffs or other law enforcement personnel time to deliver the temporary protective order to the accused abuser, but the Court cannot extend the temporary protective order more than six months.

What occurs at the final protective order hearing?

At a final protective order hearing, the victim presents witnesses and evidence about the claimed abuse to the judge, then the accused abuser presents witnesses and evidence that the claimed abuse did not occur. The victim can also present witnesses and evidence of prior acts of abuse, and the accused abuser can present witnesses and evidence that such acts did not occur. After hearing all of the evidence presented by both sides, the judge decides whether to enter a final protective order.

What does a victim need to prove to get a final protective order?

The victim must prove — by eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, medical records, photos, and statements by the accused abuser, for example — that it is more likely than not that the accused abuser did what the victim claimed.

What limits can a final protective order impose on an abuser?

In a Final Protective Order, a judge can order anything that could have been ordered in a temporary protective order (see list above), must order that the abuser surrender all firearms, and can also: (1) Order the abuser temporary visitation with children. (2) Award the victim emergency family financial support. (3) Award the victim use and possession of a jointly titled car. (4) Order the abuser into supervised counseling or a domestic violence program. (5) Order the abuser to pay filing fees and court costs.

Can the Court order the abuser to vacate the abuser's residence?

Yes, the Court can order that the abuser move out of the abuser’s residence.

Will the abuser be able to keep firearms after the Court enters a final protective order?

No. A final protective order must order the abuser to surrender to law enforcement any firearm in his or her possession, and to not possess any firearm for as long as the protective order lasts.

How long does a final protective order last?

How long a final protective order will last will be decided by the Court. A final protective order cannot last more than one year, except in special circumstances.

Can the Court extend a final protective order?

Yes. The Court can extend a final protective order, for good cause, but for no more than six months.

Are protective orders modifiable?

Yes. The Court can modify or rescind a protective order upon proper motion to the Court.

Are orders for protection issued in other states enforceable in Maryland?

Yes. An order for protection issued elsewhere in the United States is valid in Maryland to the extent that what the order requires is permitted under Maryland law.