Abuse can happen regardless of socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation, gender, or age. If you are being harmed by a partner, help is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Leaving an abusive partner or seeking legal protection can be a difficult and potentially dangerous time. You may want to discuss your situation and create a safety plan with a domestic violence organization and a knowledgeable attorney.
If your partnership or marriage has reached a tipping point where you are afraid for your safety, do not ignore your intuition.
If you have experienced abuse, there are two main types of civil legal relief you can seek in Maryland courts: Protective Orders and Peace Orders.
While obtaining a court order has many benefits, it alone cannot guarantee your safety. Depending on your circumstances, obtaining a Peace or Protective order may be one of several steps you need to take to ensure your safety.
Protective Orders and Peace Orders
Peace Orders and Protective Orders are both forms of legal protection issued by a judge, and order a person to refrain from certain acts. If you obtain either type, a judge will often order that an abuser stop abusing you, stay away from you, and not make any type of contact with you. The type of court order you are eligible to obtain depends on the relationship you have with the person abusing you.
A Protective Order is issued when the petitioner (alleged victim) and respondent (alleged abuser) have some type of domestic relationship. In Protective Orders, judges can also order more types of relief, including awarding temporary custody, ordering the abuser to leave the home, awarding possession of property, and ordering the abuser to surrender any firearms.
For Peace Orders, the relationship between the petitioner and respondent is not a factor. A Peace Order is for anyone experiencing problems with someone they are not in a domestic relationship with, including a person they are casually dating, a neighbor, a stranger, and so on.
Where Do I File?
- Filing for a Protective Order
Complete the required Petition for Protective Order (CC-DC-DV-001). During court business hours, you must file the petition with the clerk’s office of either a Circuit Court or District Court. When the court is closed, file the petition with the commissioner’s office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day.
- Filing for a Peace Order
District Court has sole jurisdiction over Peace Orders. Complete the required Petition for Peace Order (DC-PO-001). During court business hours, you must File the petition with the clerk’s office of the District Court. When the court is closed, file the petition with the commissioner’s office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day.
- Obtaining an Interim (or Temporary) Order from the District Court Commissioner
If you are filing when courts are closed, you can get an “interim” Protective or Peace order from your local district court commissioner 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The interim order will stay in effect until court reopens and a temporary protective or Peace order hearing can be held. A temporary order lasts for one to two weeks. Then, a final protective or peace order hearing is scheduled. If a final peace or protective order is issued, it typically lasts 6 months to a year.
Should I Get a Protective Order or Peace Order?
You will need to file for a Protective Order if you have a domestic relationship with the abuser. Specifically, if you:
- Are current or former spouses
- Have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year
- Are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
- Are in a parent-child, or stepparent-stepchild relationship and have resided together for at least 90 days during the past year
- Are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship
- Are the parents of a child together
- Have had a sexual relationship within 1 year before the filing of the petition
- If you meet any of the above criteria, you must get a Protective Order.
If none of the above criteria apply, then you must get a Peace Order.
To qualify for a Peace Order, the abusive act(s) must have occurred in the past 30 days. For Protective Orders, the abusive act(s) could have occurred at any time in the past. However, it is best to act quickly so that your, and any potential witnesses’, recollections are fresh.
What Is Abuse?
To obtain a Peace Order or Protective order, a petitioner must show that they have been abused. Under Maryland law, domestic violence “abuse” is defined as;
- An act that causes serious bodily harm
- An act that places you in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
- Assault in any degree
- Rape or sexual offense
- Attempted rape or attempted sexual offense
- Criminal Stalking
- False imprisonment – keeping you somewhere against your will
There are certain additional acts covered only by Peace Orders;
- Malicious destruction of property
- Revenge porn
- Unlawful visual surveillance
Other Types of Abuse
- Verbal Abuse:
Examples: constantly criticizing or mocking you, making humiliating remarks
- Sexual Abuse:
Examples: forcing or pressuring you into sex, demanding sexual acts, subjecting you to degrading treatment
Examples: making it hard to see relatives and friends, restricting your ability to travel, monitoring your communications with others
Examples: manipulating you, your children, and other family members, always insisting on being right, controlling behavior by making up impossible “rules”
Examples: following you, secretly recording you, incessantly sending you messages or calling you, monitoring your computer or phone
- Economic Control:
Examples: preventing you from working or going to school, monitoring your spending, restricting your access to money
- Abusing Trust
Examples: lying, withholding important information, being unfaithful, being excessively jealous
- Emotional Withholding
Examples: refusing to listen or pay attention to you, disregarding your opinions or feelings