Understanding Domestic Violence
Maryland law defines domestic violence “abuse” as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between “family or household members”:
- An act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
- An act that causes serious bodily harm
- Rape or sexual offense
- Attempt rape or sexual offense
- False imprisonment, such as interference with freedom, physically keeping you from leaving your home or kidnapping you.
What are Protective Orders?
A judge issues a protective order in civil court. A protective order requires one person to refrain from committing certain acts against others, including domestic violence.
Who Can File for Protective Orders?
You are eligible for a protective order if you and the alleged abuser:
- Are current or former spouses
- Have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year
- Are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
- Are in a parent-child, or stepparent-stepchild relationship and have resided together for at least 90 days during the past year
- Are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship
- Are the parents of a child together
- Have had a sexual relationship within 1 year before the filing of the petition
How Can I File for a Protective Order?
Complete a Petition for Protective Order.
If the court is closed, file the petition with the Commissioner’s Office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day. During court business hours, you must file with the court and not one of the Commissioners.
How Can a Protective Order Help Me?
If you file for a protective order, you can ask the judge for certain kinds of help.
In an Interim or Temporary Protective Order, the judge can order that the abuser:
- Stop abusing you.
- Stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, or the place where you may be staying, stay away from your child’s school, and from your family members’ homes.
- Stay out of your house.
- Leave the home where the two of you live, if you are married to the abuser, AND you were living with your abuser at the time of the abuse.
- Leave the home if you are not married to the abuser, but were living with the abuser at the time of the abuse, AND your name is on the lease or deed for the house, OR you lived with the abuser for at least 90 days within the past year.
The judge can also give you temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser. Additionally, she can award temporary possession of any pet of the person eligible for relief, or a pet the respondent.
In a Final Protective Order, a judge can order any of the above, and can also:
- Establish temporary visitation with children.
- Award emergency family maintenance.
- Award use and possession of jointly titled car.
- Order counseling.
- Order the abuser to surrender all firearms.
- Order the abuser to pay filing fees and court costs.
- Order any other relief that the judge determines is necessary to protect a person eligible for relief from abuse