Protective Orders

In Maryland you can obtain an order of protection from either the District or the Circuit Court in your county.    Some courthouses have advocates on-site who can assist you.  The following is a step-by-step guide to help you with this process.

How Can I Get Protection Under the Law?

There is a two or three-step process that you must follow to get a domestic violence Protection Order against your abuser. You can do this without a lawyer. But you should contact your local domestic violence agency for advice and counseling and possibly legal representation.  You may also want to seek the services of a domestic violence shelter in your area. The following is a step-by-step guide to help you protect yourself against abuse.

Step #1 Interim Order: Obtaining Immediate Protection When the Courts are Closed

District Court Commissioners are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around the state. A victim of domestic violence can access a Commissioner either by going to any on-duty Commissioner’s office or by telephoning an on-call Commissioner. Contact information for the Commissioners can be found on the District Court website.

1: Fill out the form at the office of the District Court Commissioner in your county.

You can contact a Commissioner's office at any hour. You will be asked to fill out forms. List every example of physical abuse and threats.  Even abuse that happened in the past should be included.  You should be as specific as possible when completing this form.  If you need, you can write on an additional sheet of paper and attach the paper to the form.

2: You will see a Commissioner.

An appointment will not be necessary.  You should tell the Commissioner in detail about what the abuser did to you.  If you have proof of the abuse (pictures, police reports, medical records, witnesses, etc.), you should tell the Commissioner at this time. If you do not feel safe telling the Commissioner where you are staying, you can provide an alternate address or keep your address confidential.

3: What the Commissioner May Order

The protection may include (If you are eligible for the order), any (or all) of the following:

  • Order the abuser to stop abusing you.
  • Order the abuser to stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, the place where you may be staying, from your children’s school(s), and from your family members’ homes.
  • Order the abuser to stay out of your house.
  • If you are married to the abuser AND you were living together at the time of the abuse, the court can order the abuser to leave the home where the two of you live.
  • If you are not married to the abuser, but were living together at the time of the abuse AND your name is on the lease or deed for the house the court can order the abuser to leave the home.
  • If you are not married to the abuser and you lived with the abuser for at least ninety (90) days within the past year, the court can order the abuser to leave the house.
  • Order that you be given temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser.
  • Order abuser to stay away from a child care location.

4: Interim Order Requirements. 

The Commissioner will review the form and may issue an "Interim Order." This order will:

  • State the day, time and location of another hearing for a Temporary Protective Order;
  • State the day, time and location of a final hearing for a Final Protective Order;
  • Expire at the end of the second business day or at the Temporary Protective Order Hearing.

The Order will be served by law enforcement. "Served" means that the police will give a copy to the person you filed against.

5: Schedule a Temporary Order Hearing.

You must attend another hearing that will be held within a few days. After the first hearing with the Commissioner, the police will try to locate the abuser and give him/her a copy of the order.  The Order notifies the abuser when and where to appear for the second Temporary Order hearing. The abuser gets a copy of your petition. If the other side has not received a copy (been served), the court will issue the temporary protective order and serve the abuser with notice of the final hearing. Read the Law: MD Fam. Law § 4-504; MD Fam. Law § 4-504.1

Step #2 Temporary Order: Obtaining Immediate Protection During Court Business Hours

1: Go to the District Court in Your County

Go to the court between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm and tell the clerk that you want to file a protective order. The abuser does not have to go to court with you. If you have already obtained an interim protective order, you do not need to see the clerk because you will have scheduled your hearing already.

2: The Clerk Will Give You a Form to Complete

List every instance of physical abuse and threats.  Even abuse that happened in the past should be included.  You should be as specific as possible when completing this form.  If you need, you can write on an additional sheet of paper and attach the paper to the form.

3: You will see a Judge or Master

An appointment will not be necessary, though if you got an interim order from a Commissioner, you will have one.  You should tell the Judge in detail about what the abuser did to you.  If you have proof of the abuse (pictures, police reports, medical records, witnesses, etc.), you should tell the Judge at this time. If you do not feel safe telling the Judge or Master where you are staying, you can provide an alternate adress or keep your address confidential.

4: What the Judge May Order

If you are eligible for the order, the Judge will sign an order that may say any (or all) of the following:

  • Order the abuser to stop abusing you.
  • Order the abuser to stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, the place where you may be staying, from your children’s school(s), and from your family members’ homes.
  • Order the abuser to stay out of your house.
  • If you are married to the abuser AND you were living together at the time of the abuse, the court can order the abuser to leave the home where the two of you live.
  • If you are not married to the abuser, but were living together 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 ninety (90) days within the past year, the court can order the abuser to leave the home.
  • Order that you be given temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser.
  • Order that you be given temporary custody of any pets owned by you or the abuser.
  • Order the abuser to stay away from a child care location.

5: Schedule the Final Order Hearing

The Judge will then schedule another hearing that will be held in one (1) week. After the hearing, law enforcement will try to locate the abuser and give him/her a copy of the order. The order notifies the abuser when and where to appear for the second hearing and what the allegations are.

6: Getting More Help

As soon as you get the Temporary Order, you should contact the domestic violence agency in your area for further assistance.  If possible, you should also do the following:

  • Take pictures of any visible bruises.
  • Get copies of any police reports.
  • If anyone else saw the abuse, talk to him/her about going back to court with you.
  • Talk to the police about filing criminal charges if you have not already done so.
  • If you are seeking financial relief, get copies of your most recent pay stub and any income information about the abuser you can.

Read the Law: MD Fam. Law § 4-505

Step #3 Final Order: Obtaining Long Term Protection

1: The Final Hearing

At the Final Protection Order hearing, you and the abuser will likely be present.  The abuser may or may not have a lawyer.  (If the abuser has been given a copy of the temporary order but chooses not to appear, you should ask the judge to enter the protection order against the abuser anyway. This is called a Default Order.)

You and the abuser will each have a chance to tell the judge what happened. (The judge may, or may not, be the same judge as the one at the first hearing.) You should repeat what you told the judge the week before.  The judge will also allow you to present any evidence that you have brought to court with you.

If you are afraid of the abuser or if the abuser has attempted to contact you within the past week, you should let the judge know.  Do not be surprised or upset if the abuser lies about what happened.

The judge will decide whether or not the abuse occurred. See the section on Going to Court.

2: What the Judge Can Order

If the judge finds that the abuse did occur, the judge may order one (or all) of the following for up to one year:

  • Order the abuser to stop abusing you.
  • Order the abuser to stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you.
  • Order the abuser to stay out of your house.
  • If you are married to the abuser AND you were living together at the time of the abuse, the court can order the abuser to leave the home where the two of you live for up to one year.
  • If you are not married to the abuser, but were living together 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 ninety (90) days within the past year, the court can order the abuser to leave the home for up to one year.
  • Order the abuser to stay away from your job, your school, the place where you may be staying, from your children’s school(s), and from your family members’ homes.
  • Order that you be given temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser for up to one year.
    •  A judge may order a law enforcement officer to use all reasonable and necessary force to enforce a temporary custody provision of a final protective order.
  • Order that you be given temporary custody of any pets you own with the abuser.
  • Order visitation between the abuser and the children unless your safety or the safety of the children is at risk (if you believe that it is, you should let the judge know).
  • If you are married, order the abuser to pay money to help support you during the order.
  • If you have children with the abuser, order the abuser to pay support for the children.
  • If you own a car with the abuser, the court may order that you have sole use of the car for the period of the order (you must tell the judge that the car is necessary in order to get you to work or to transport a child).
  • Order the abuser or you to participate in a counseling program.
  • Order the abuser to surrender firearms.
  • Order the abuser to stay away from a child care location.

You and the abuser will each receive a copy of the protective order. You should keep a copy of the order with you at all times.

3: If the Protective Order is Violated

If the abuser continues to harass you or contacts you, you should call the police immediately!  If your abuser does not follow the order, the abuser may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and be subjected to a fine of up to $500 or a jail sentence of up to ninety (90) days.

If your abuser violates the Protective Order by failing to pay the required Emergency Family Maintenance, you may want to file in court for contempt. If you file for contempt, there will be a contempt hearing, and the abuser will be ordered to pay what he/she owes you in Emergency Family Maintenance if the judge finds that the abuser has violated the terms of the Order.

Extending a Protective Order

  1. You may be able to extend the length of your Protective Order by 6 months, after a hearing and good cause shown. You can obtain the paper to ask for this at the clerk’s office where you originally got the Protective Order.
  2. If the abuser abuses you again while the Protective Order is in effect, you can seek to extend the order for two years. The form you use to make this request is available at the clerk’s office.
  3. If the abuser abuses you again within one year of the expiration of a Protective Order, you can seek a 2-year Protective Order.

Permanent Orders

A permanent order can be issued against an individual that was convicted and served a term of at least five years of imprisonment. Read the Law: MD Fam. Law § 4-506

Source: 

updated by Laure Ruth
Is this legal advice?

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