As of October 1992, an expanded civil protection law makes it easier for victims of domestic violence to get the help they need. A victim can apply to the courts for protection, temporary custody, counseling, financial support and a "vacate the home order."
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is:
- An act that causes serious bodily harm
- An act that places someone in fear of serious bodily harm
- Battery – unpermitted touching, direct or indirect. It does not require any physical injury. Shoving, kicking, slapping, choking or hitting someone with an object are examples of battery.
- Assault – the threat of harm with the ability to carry it out
- Rape or sexual abuse – forcible sexual relations. In Maryland, a husband can be convicted of raping his wife.
- False imprisonment – keeping someone in a place against his or her will.
Am I a Victim Eligible for a Restraining Order?
If you meet at least one of the below listed criteria, then you are eligible for a restraining order.
- If you are a current or former spouse.
- If you are an individual who has a child in common with the abuser, even if not married or living separately
- If you are a cohabitant, someone who has lived with the abuser as a sexual partner in the same home for at least 90 days during the past year
- If you are a person related to the abuser by blood, marriage or adoption
- If you are a parent, step-parent, child or step-child who has lived with the victim or abuser for at least 90 days within the past year
- If you are a vulnerable adult – someone who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his/her own daily needs
How Do I Get Help?
You can apply by yourself for a Petition for Protection, or Restraining Order, in either the District or the Circuit Court. Local domestic violence programs can help you find the court and guide you through this process.
The clerk at the Civil desk will give you three forms to complete:
Petition for Protection
This is your statement to the judge, supplying information about the abuser and the most recent incident of abuse, as well as past incidents of abuse. If you do not want the abuser to know your whereabouts, you do not need to provide your address.
Ex Parte Order and Protective Order
This form is completed by the judge. You will only write your name and the abuser's name on these forms.
If you are asking for financial support from the abuser, you need to complete this form and return it to the court at the second hearing.
You will see a judge the same day you file your Petition for Protection. If the judge finds reasonable grounds to believe that there has been abuse, a temporary Ex Parte Order will be signed.
The Ex Parte Order can grant you temporary custody of your children and order the abuser to:
- Refrain from abuse
- Stop harassing you or to cut off all contact with you
- Stay away from your home, workplace and your children's school
- Move out of the house, if you are living together and married, your name is on the lease or deed, or you have lived together in a sexual relationship for at least 90 days within the past year
A Protective Order hearing will be scheduled within seven days of filing your order.
Your Ex Parte Order becomes effective the minute it is served on the abuser by a law enforcement officer. This copy of the Ex Parte Order tells the a user the place and time of the second hearing.
The Protective Order Hearing
At the Protective Order Hearing, the abuser may also be present. This hearing is usually informal; however, either party may choose to bring an attorney. If the abuser has been served and chooses not to attend this hearing, you may request a full Protective Order.
The judge can enter a Protective Order if the abuser consents, or if by clear and convincing evidence that abuse has occurred. Be sure to show the judge any evidence you have to support your accusations including photos, medical reports and witnesses.
In addition to the relief granted in the Ex Parte Order, the judge may also order:
- Temporary visitation with your children, keeping in mind you and your children's safety
- Use and possession of a vehicle you share with the abuser if you need it for work or care of your children. Your name must be on the title.
- Financial support if you are married to or have children with the abuser
What Happens if the Order is Violated?
All the relief granted under a Protective Order may not exceed eighteen months.
If the abuser violates any part of the Order, you can notify the court in writing or file a complaint with the District Court Commissioner. The police are mandated to arrest an abuser violates an order by re-abusing, contacting you or entering your residence or workplace.
The offender is then subject to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine, if convicted.