As October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we wanted to focus attention on one of the legal protections offered to victims in Maryland: a protective order. The topic is also relevant given the current pandemic and the resultant uptick in domestic abuse cases nationally. According to a July 6, 2020 post from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, some of this situation can be attributed to restricted movement outside the home and financial and mental stressors faced by families.
Turning back to the topic at hand, in Maryland, protective orders encompass an array of legal protections offered to individuals facing issues involving a romantic partner, parent, or another family member. Depending on the specifics of a case and a judge’s ruling, an order may be valid for a few days up to one year.
The following post outlines what a Maryland protective order entails, what types of acts it covers, what criteria must be met to obtain one, and how it differs from a peace order.
What is a Maryland Protective Order?
According to the Maryland Courts’ website, a protective order is “a court order that says one person must refrain from doing certain acts against another person. It’s Maryland’s version of a restraining order or stay-away order.” An order also enables the courts to step in and prevent contact between the requesting party and the other individual, who is referred to as the Respondent.
Furthermore, and most importantly, in order to obtain a protective order, certain relationships between parties must be present. They need to fulfill one or more of the following criteria:
- Be married, divorced, or separated couples
- Be related by marriage, blood, or adoption
- Be in a sexual relationship for at least 90 days in the past year
- Have a child together
- Have had a sexual relationship with each other in the past year
- Are a vulnerable adult
- Were sexually assaulted or raped by the other party in the past six months (inclusive of attempts, too)
Example Situations That May Lead to a Protective Order
- Acts of direct physical violence causing serious bodily harm (kicking, punching, stabbing, choking)
- Threats of direct physical harm
- Acts of sexual violence (threat or actual)
- False imprisonment
- Mental injury to a minor
- Revenge pornography
How Do You Apply for a Protective Order?
Depending on the timing of your request, there are either two or three steps to apply for a protective order. It is important to note that, unlike peace orders, Maryland District and Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over these matters.
As you begin this process, prepare the following:
- Document with photos any physical harm
- If not already done, talk to the police about your case and pressing charges
- Seek out witnesses and ask them to testify on your behalf
- Obtain pay stubs, mortgage or rent payment receipts, and other financial statements that are tied to the abuser
Once you have collected the items above, follow these steps when applying for a protective order in Maryland:
Step 1: Obtain an Interim Protective Order When the Courts Are Closed
When your nearest District or Circuit Court is closed, you may file a Petition for Protective Order with the District Court Commissioner’s office, which is open 24/7. To find your District Court, information is available here.
It is important to list all examples of physical abuse and threats, abuse history, any pending or previous court actions between the parties, and what type of relief you desire.
Keep in mind that these orders are good for two business days after being issued only.
Step 2: Obtain a Temporary Protective Order When the Courts Are Open
During normal business hours, you will need to submit a petition to your District or Circuit Court for a temporary protective order. An individual can find their nearest Circuit Court here. Upon submission, you will be required to appear before a judge in order to provide evidence that warrants a protective order’s issuance.
If the judge approves your request, the protective order will go into effect for seven days after law enforcement serve the Respondent (the individual whose behavior is being addressed in the protective order). Additionally, if a petitioner wishes to extend these protections, they will need to request a final protective order hearing.
Step 3: Request a Final Protective Order Hearing
This hearing follows the issuance of a temporary order where both parties involved must appear and tell their stories, call witnesses, and have an attorney present if they wish.
Should the judge rule in favor of the petitioner, a new protective order goes into effect for up to one year. A sample of potential protections that will be offered include:
- The abuser will have to provide financial support to the abused party and/or their children
- The abuser will be required to vacate a shared living space
- The abuser must surrender custody of their children to the abused party; alternatively, they may face restricted visitation rights
If You’re Seeking Help with a Protective Order or Other Domestic Violence Issues, We’re Here to Help
Work with the Albers & Associates team to help you navigate the legal process for your case and ensure you get the justice you deserve. Request a case review by contacting one of our six locations across Maryland. Our team of legal experts are available by phone or can be reached using our consultation form.