These are the questions that you should consider as you prepare for your final protective order hearing. Please review each one carefully.
Topics on this page:
- When and where is the hearing?
- Do I need a lawyer?
- Have I gathered all my evidence?
- What do I want included in the Final Protective Order?
- Do I have a plan for visitation?
- How will I communicate changes in visitation?
Domestic Violence: Protective Order Hearings from the Maryland Courts
Make sure you come to the final hearing. If you do not appear at the hearing, your Temporary Order will expire, and you will not receive a Final Protective Order. You should consider:
- Do you have transportation?
- Do you know where the Court is located?
- To avoid running into the respondent/respondent’s family or supporters in the parking lot or on the way into the courthouse, consider arriving early and bringing a friend or family member as support (or both).
If you are considering having an attorney with you at the hearing, start looking for one today.
- Do not wait until the day before the hearing.
- Contact the Domestic Violence Community Resources in your county for legal help and shelter (if needed).
You must prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" that you need protection. Preponderance of the evidence simply means more likely than not. Evidence includes your testimony and any other proof you have of the alleged abuse. The rules of evidence can be complicated so it is good to familiarize yourself before the hearing. Learn more about evidence and proving a fact in court.
Remember that, unlike the interim or temporary protective order hearing(s), the respondent will be present to testify on their own behalf. The respondent may also call their own witnesses or present any evidence that they might have to defend themselves.
It is important, as the petitioner, to ask yourself, “what makes me more believable?” When it is the petitioner’s testimony against the respondent’s testimony, it is the court’s job to judge credibility (i.e., decide who they believe more). However, it is easier to meet the “preponderance of the evidence” standard with witness testimony and physical evidence, if possible.
Gather any evidence you think may help prove your case. This includes:
- Police reports;
- Hospital or doctor's records for any injuries;
- Photographs of injuries;
- Text messages or voicemail recordings from the respondent;
- Torn or damaged clothing;
- Witnesses (affidavits are not enough) - if someone needs to be issued a summons to leave work to come to the hearing, contact the clerk's office or speak to your attorney; and
- Other documents to help the judge to decide the extent of the abuse and your need for support (e.g., financial statements, list of bills, pay stubs, medical information, criminal charges, etc.)
Think about what you want included in the final protective order.
- No contact or limited contact (i.e.: only about child(ren), only by phone, email)
- Requirement that the respondent vacate the shared home
- Use of the family home or car
- Stay away from your home, place of employment, school, or child care provider
- Counseling for the respondent
- Use and possession of any shared pets
- Emergency family maintenance (How much financial support do you need, and how often do you need it?)
- Custody and visitation
If you have children with the respondent, it is helpful to have a visitation plan for your children ahead of time. Will the visitation be supervised or unsupervised? If you fear violence, you can arrange for supervised visitation. You can also arrange a safe place to exchange the child(ren).
- If supervised, by whom? (a relative, friend, or a visitation center)
- If a relative or friend, you must provide name, address, telephone number, etc.
- Who will provide the transportation?
- Where is the pick-up and drop off location? Do you need a safe, neutral location? Look into Monitored Exchange programs with your local family services coordinator.
- What day(s) and times will visitation/exchange occur? See the Visitation Center hours if you are using a Center.
- What are your concerns about the visitation?
- Are there any conditions you would like included in the visitation agreement? (For example, no drinking while children are visiting, etc.)
- What kind of additional contact do you think is appropriate between the other parent and the child(ren)?
- Telephone contact? Who calls and when?
- Events at the child(ren)'s school or sports?
- Email? Or other types of "virtual visitation"
- Through a third person? Who?
- By telephone, text, or email, if allowed by the protective order?