Disputes between divorcing partners can get out of hand; sometimes, the reason for the divorce is to escape an abusive spouse. Either way, in Maryland, those who are being abused by their spouse or another member of their household can obtain a domestic violence protective order from the District Court or the Circuit Court in their county.
For the purpose of obtaining a protective order, domestic abuse is considered to be:
- A violent act that causes serious bodily harm;
- Threats of harm that cause a person to fear imminent serious bodily harm;
- Rape or attempted rape, sexual assault;
- False imprisonment;
- Mental injury to a minor child; or
The civil court system in Maryland offers two options when you are looking for protection from someone who has been harming you – a protective order or a peace order.
Protective orders are issued in cases of domestic violence when your abuser is related to you or lives in your household. The alleged abuser would be:
- Your current or former spouse;
- A current or former intimate partner for at least 90 days in the past year;
- Related to you by blood, adoption or marriage;
- Your child or your parent, step-child or step-parent, and you have lived with them for at least 90 days in the past year;
- Someone who has been a caretaker for you or you have been a caretaker for them;
- Someone with whom you have a child together; and
- Someone with whom you have had a sexual relationship within one year of filing the petition.
What will a protective order accomplish for me?
If you are awarded a protective order, the following relief is possible:
- The alleged abuser is ordered to cease contact with you completely;
- The alleged abuser is ordered to stay away from you, your home, your work, school, your child’s school and possibly your family members’ homes;
- The abuser is ordered to leave the home that you shared;
- Temporary custody of the children that you have with the abuser can be awarded to you;
- Emergency family maintenance to support yourself and your children can be awarded;
- Temporary use and possession of jointly owned vehicles can be awarded;
- The alleged abuser can be ordered into counseling; and
- Temporary possession of a family pet can be awarded.
A peace order gives you legal protection from someone who is not a member of your household. A peace order can be sought if the following acts are being committed against you:
- An act that causes serious bodily harm;
- An act that places you in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
- Rape or sexual offense;
- False imprisonment;
- Trespass; or
- Malicious destruction of property.
A peace order, if awarded, can be in effect for a period of six months. The nature of your relationship with the person who has been abusing you is not an issue with a peace order. The following relief is available if a peace order is awarded:
- The alleged abuser is ordered to refrain from committing the acts listed hereinabove against you;
- The alleged abuser is ordered to refrain from contacting, attempting to contact or harassing you;
- The alleged abuser is ordered not to enter your home;
- The alleged abuser is ordered to stay away from your work, school or temporary residence; and
- The alleged abuser can be ordered to participate in counseling.
Your Maryland divorce attorney can help you file the paperwork for a protective or peace order so that you and your children can feel safe in your own home. An interim order is awarded if you appear before a commissioner, and a temporary hearing will be scheduled usually within 24-48 hours. A temporary order will be awarded if you first appear before a judge, and if successful, a final hearing will be scheduled for the following week. A final protective order can remain in effect for up to a year, and the order can be made permanent under certain conditions. You can also go to court at some date in the future if you desire to have the protective order lifted. A peace order can remain in effect for up to six months.
Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you are considering a divorce and you need protection from an abusive spouse or family member, we can help. Please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time to discuss your case.