Preparing for the Final Protective Order Hearing
COVID-19 Information Update
Maryland courts are currently closed to the public; however, the courts will continue to hear certain types of emergency matters.
Domestic Violence and Peace Orders
Call first to provide information and for instructions on where to go. Once the commissioner issues an interim order, a judge will determine whether the next hearing must be heard in person, can be heard with remote electronic participation, can be scheduled after the emergency period has ended, or can be resolved without a hearing. More information for the public is available on the Maryland Courts website.
The District Court of Maryland's Communication Regarding Domestic Violence Protective Orders, Peace Orders and Extreme Risk Protective Orders provides more information about hearing dates and interim orders.
These are the questions that you should be prepared to answer when you have your final protective order hearing. Please review each one carefully. If you have one or more children with the respondent, it is helpful to have a visitation plan for your children ahead of time.
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.
- 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. Your testimony, as well as any evidence you have of the alleged abuse, will be considered in your favor so long as you provide the evidence in compliance with the rules of evidence, which are often relaxed in these types of hearings.
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
Visitation with the Other Parent
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"
How do you want to communicate about any changes in visitation?
- Through a third party person? Who?
- By telephone, text, or email, if allowed by the protective order?