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Know the Laws: Maryland

UPDATED August 2, 2014

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

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A protective order is a civil order that protects you from harm by someone you have a specific relationship with.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in MD?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a protective order (also known as a "domestic violence protective order," or "DVPO").

Maryland law defines "abuse" as when someone you have a specific relationship with (see Am I eligible for a protective order?) commits one of the following against you:
  • Assault;
  • An act that places you in fear of immediate serious bodily harm or actually causes you serious bodily harm;
  • Attempted or actual rape or sexual offense; (go to MD Statutes, and read sections 3-303 through 3-308 for the definitions);
  • Stalking;
  • False imprisonment, such as holding you somewhere against your will.*
Note: If the petitioner is a child, domestic abuse can also include abuse of a child.”  If protection is sought for a vulnerable adult,** "abuse" may also include "abuse of a vulnerable adult."***

* MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501(b)(1)
** A "vulnerable adult" means an adult who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for the adult's daily needs. See Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 14-101(q)
*** MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501(b)(2),(3)

 

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back to topWhat types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of protective orders:

Interim protective orders. If you wish to file for a protective order but the court clerk’s office is closed in both the circuit and district courts, you can file for an interim order by going to the nearest district court commissioner.  If the commissioner believes that you or someone you are filing for has been abused, s/he may issue an interim protective order.  An interim order goes into effect once the respondent is served by a law enforcement officer.  The interim order lasts until a judge holds a temporary hearing, which is usually within a couple of days unless the judge postpones it.  If the court is closed on the day on which the interim protective order is due to expire, the interim protective order will be effective until the next day on which the court is open, at which time the judge has to hold a temporary protective order hearing.*

Temporary protective orders. When you go to court during normal court hours to file for a final protective order, you can ask for a temporary protective order, which can be issued the same day.  This order can be issued “ex parte” (without the abuser present) and without a full court hearing.  If the abuser is not present in court, law enforcement is supposed to serve him/her “immediately” after it is issued. If the abuser was already served with an interim order and is present in court, s/he can be served in court or if s/he doesn’t show up to court, it will be served through the mail.  The temporary order is in effect for 7 days after service of the order, at which point a full court hearing will be held for a final protective order. If the court is closed on the day on which the temporary protective order is due to expire, the temporary protective order will be effective until the second day on which the court is open, by which time the judge has to hold a final protective order hearing. The judge may extend the temporary order as needed, but not to more than 6 months.*1

Final protective orders. A final protective order can be issued only after both sides have the opportunity to present their evidence and testimony at a full court hearing. If the judge believes that the abuse has occurred, or if the abuser agrees to you getting the protective order, the judge may grant a final protective order.*2  You must attend that hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order may expire and you will have to start the process over. A final protective order will generally last up to one year, unless otherwise stated. However, it can last for up to two years, if you had an order against the abuser before that lasted for at least 6 months, and the same person abused you again within 1 year of your old order expiring.*3   Lastly, an order can be permanent (last forever) if:

  • you had an order against the abuser in the past; and
  • s/he was convicted and served at least 5 years in prison for an incident of abuse against you that was the basis for your old order.
If you request a new protective order after the abuser is imprisoned for at least 5 years, this new order will be permanent (last forever) unless you (the petitioner) go to court to request that it be terminated.*4

One-year or two-year orders may also be extended.*5 See How do I change or extend my protective order? for more information.

* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-504.1(a),(b),(e)(1),(h)
*1 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-505(a)(1),(b),(c)
*2 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(c)(1)(ii)
*3 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(j)(1),(2)
*4 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(k)(1),(3)
*5 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-507(a)

 

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back to topHow can a protective order help me?

Each kind of protective order (interim, temporary, and final) can help you in different ways.  A judge may be able to order different things depending on what kind of order you get. There are certain things that all protective orders can help you with and other things that only certain orders can do.

ALL protective orders (interim, temporary, and final) can order any or all of the following:

  • Order the abuser to not abuse or threaten to abuse you or anyone else listed in the order;
  • Order the abuser to not contact, try to contact, or harass you or anyone else listed in the order;
  • Order the abuser to not enter your home;
  • Order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your child(ren)’s work place, school, temporary residence (such as a shelter), or other family members’ homes;
  • Order the abuser to move out of the house (if you shared it) and give you temporary use and possession of the home. (Note: If you are not married to the abuser, this can only happen if your name must is on the lease or deed to the home OR if you shared the home with the abuser for at least 90 days during the 1-year period before you filed for the protective order.* (See Can a DVPO make the abuser move out? for more information); and
  • Give you temporary possession of any pet owned by you or the respondent.*
In addition, an interim order can:
  • Do everything listed above; and
  • Give you temporary custody of any children you have with the abuser IF:
    • The child lived with you and the respondent when the abuse happened; OR
    • Child abuse is alleged in your petition regardless of whether or not you and the respondent lived together.*1
Note: If the other parent has the child, the judge can order that the child be returned to you and can order law enforcement to use reasonable and necessary force to return the child to you.*2

A temporary order can:
  • Do everything listed above in the “ALL protection orders” list;
  • Order the abuser to stay away from your child(ren)’s child-care provider while the child is there;
  • Give you temporary custody of children you have with the abuser; (Note: If the other parent has the child, the judge can order that the child be returned to you and can order law enforcement to use reasonable and necessary force to return the child to you.)
  • Order the respondent to give to law enforcement any firearm in his/her possession and to not have/use any firearm while you have the temporary protective order if the abuse consisted of:
    • the use or threatened use of a firearm by the respondent against a you; or
    • serious bodily harm (or a threat to cause serious bodily harm) to you.*3
A final order can:
  • Do everything listed above in the “ALL protection orders” list;
  • Order the abuser to stay away from your child(ren)’s child-care provider while the child is there;
  • Give you temporary custody of children you have with the abuser;
  • Set up temporary visitation with children you and the abuser have together while keeping the safety of you and the child in mind – therefore, visits can be supervised or denied if the judge believes that is necessary to keep you and/or the child safe;
  • Order the abuser to pay you emergency family maintenance (child support and/or spousal support) and garnish the abuser’s wages if necessary;
  • Give you temporary use and possession of a vehicle jointly owned by you and the respondent if it’s necessary for your job or for caring for a child you and the respondent have;
  • Order you and/or the abuser to go to counseling or a domestic violence program;
  • Order the abuser to pay the filling fees and costs of your court case.*4
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

* MD Code Ann., Fam. Law §§ 4-504.1(c), 4-505(a)(2), 4-506(d)
*1 MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-504.1(c)(4)(ii), (c)(5)
*2 MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-504.1(d)
*3 MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-505(a)(2)(vi),(a)(2)(vii),(a)(3),(a)(2)(viii)
*4 MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-506(d)

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back to topCan a DVPO make the abuser move out?

In some cases, yes.  If you lived in the same home or apartment as the abuser, a DVPO may be able to order the abuser to leave and give you temporary use and possession of the residence.  However, whether or not a judge can order the abuser to move out depends on several factors that the judge will consider:

  • The housing needs of any minor child living in the home;
  • How long your relationship with the abuser has lasted;
  • Whose name is on the title to the home;
  • The type of any criminal charges against the abuser and the status of the criminal case against him/her;
  • The history and severity of abuse in the relationship between you and the abuser;
  • Whether or not you and/or the abuser have anywhere else to stay; and
  • The financial resources of both you and the abuser.*
* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(h)

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back to topWhere can I file for a DVPO?

You can file for a DVPO in any district or circuit court in Maryland.  If the clerk’s office is open, you would file with the clerk.  If the clerk’s office is closed, you would file with a District Court commissioner.*  Please visit our MD Courthouse Locations page to find courthouse contact information.

* See the Maryland Courts website

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