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    Q. What is abuse?  

    A. Maryland law defines "abuse" as one or more of the following acts:  (1) Assault
    (examples: hitting, pushing, pulling, grabbing, biting, scratching). (2) An act that
    places the victim in fear of immediate serious bodily harm or actually causes the
    victim serious bodily harm (examples: throwing an object at the victim, putting a
    fist through a wall, breaking through a locked or closed door, blocking a victim's
    exit from a room). (3) Attempted or actual rape or other sexual offense. (4)
    Stalking. (5) False imprisonment, such as holding the victim somewhere against
    the victim's will. (6) Any act that would be considered child abuse under Maryland
    law.

    Q. What is a protective order?  

    A. A protective order is a court order that usually requires an abuser to stay away
    from a victim, forbids contact with a victim, and forbids more abuse.  An interim,
    temporary or final protective order can set other limits on the abuser.  Read the
    rest of these FAQs to find out more.

    Q. Who can get a protective order?  

    A. To get a protective order, the victim and accused abuser must have one of the
    following connections: (1) Current or former spouses. (2) Living together or have
    lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year.
    (3) Related by blood, marriage, or adoption. (4) Parent and child, or stepparent
    and stepchild, of one another and have lived together for at least 90 days during
    the past year. (5) Have a child in common. (6) In addition, the caretaker of a child
    or vulnerable adult victim can file on behalf of the child or vulnerable adult.

    Q. What is the first step to get a protective order?  

    A. The victim files a petition under oath asking for a protective order.  

    Q. Where is the petition for protection from domestic abuse filed?  

    A. If the Court is open, the petition is filed in a Maryland state court.  If the Court is
    closed (after business hours and on weekends and holidays), the petition is filed
    with a police commissioner at the local police station.

    Q. What happens when a petition is filed?  

    A. If the Court is open, the petitioner goes before a judge to get a temporary
    protective order.  If the Court is closed, the police commissioner on duty decides
    whether to issue an interim order; then, as soon as the Court opens, the petitioner
    goes before a Judge to get a temporary protective order.

    Q. When does an interim order go into effect and how long does it last?  

    A. An interim order goes into effect as soon as the abuser is served by a law
    enforcement officer. The interim order lasts until a judge holds a hearing on
    whether to issue a temporary protective order.

    Q. What is a temporary protective order hearing?  

    A. This is the first hearing in Court before a judge about the request for a protective
    order.  The judge decides whether the claims of abuse by the victim call for a
    temporary protective order.  If a temporary protective order is issued, a final
    protective order hearing is scheduled.

    Q. How long does a temporary protective order last?  

    A. A temporary protective order lasts for seven days or until the scheduled final
    protective order hearing.  

    Q. What rules can an interim or temporary protective order put on an accused
    abuser?  

    A. An interim or temporary protective order can require that the accused abuser:
    (1) Not abuse or threaten to abuse the victim. (2) Not contact, try to contact, or
    harass the victim. (3) Stay away from home, school, job, or temporary residence of
    the victim. (4) Stay away from a child's school, and from the homes of the victim's
    family members. (5) Not enter the residence, and the grounds around the
    residence, of the victim. (6) Leave the residence of the victim if the victim and
    accused abuser live together. (7) Not have contact or visitation with any children of
    the victim and the accused. (8) Surrender any firearms the accused abuser has,
    depending on what abuse was claimed. (9) Not keep possession of a pet.

    Q. If a Judge issues a temporary protective order, how does the accused
    abuser find out?

    A. Deputy sheriffs deliver the temporary protective order to the accused abuser
    together with a notice of when the final protective order hearing will occur. If the
    accused abuser shows up unexpectedly somewhere around the victim, any police
    officer can be called upon to hand the temporary protective order and hearing
    notice to the accused abuser.

    Q. What happens if the deputy sheriffs are unable to deliver the temporary
    protective order  to the accused abuser before the final protective order
    hearing?  

    A. If the accused abuser is not served in time, the victim may ask the Court to
    extend the temporary protective order in order to give the deputy sheriffs or other
    law enforcement personnel time to deliver the temporary protective order to the
    accused abuser, but the Court cannot extend the temporary protective order more
    than six months.  

    Q. What occurs at the final protective order hearing?  

    A. At a final protective order hearing, the victim presents witnesses and evidence
    about the claimed abuse to the judge, then the accused abuser presents
    witnesses and evidence that the claimed abuse did not occur.  The victim can
    also present witnesses and evidence of prior acts of abuse, and the accused
    abuser can present witnesses and evidence that such acts did not occur.  After
    hearing all of the evidence presented by both sides, the judge decides whether to
    enter a final protective order.

    Q. What does a victim need to prove to get a final protective order?  

    A. The victim must prove -- by eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, medical
    records, photos, and statements by the accused abuser, for example -- that it is
    more likely than not that the accused abuser did what the victim claimed.

    Q. What limits can a final protective order impose on an abuser?  

    A. In a Final Protective Order, a judge can order anything that could have been
    ordered in a temporary protective order (see list above), must order that the
    abuser surrender all firearms, and can also: (1) Order the abuser temporary
    visitation with children. (2) Award the victim emergency family financial support. (3)
    Award the victim use and possession of a jointly titled car. (4) Order the abuser
    into supervised counseling or a domestic violence program. (5) Order the abuser
    to pay filing fees and court costs.

    Q. Can the Court order the abuser to vacate the abuser's residence?  

    A. Yes, the Court can order that the abuser move out of the abuser's residence.

    Q. Will the abuser be able to keep firearms after the Court enters a final
    protective order?  

    A. No.  A final protective order must order the abuser to surrender to law
    enforcement any firearm in his or her possession, and to not possess any firearm
    for as long as the protective order lasts.

    Q. How long does a final protective order last?  

    A. How long a final protective order will last will be decided by the Court.  A final
    protective order cannot last more than one year, except in special circumstances.  

    Q. Can the Court extend a final protective order?  

    A. Yes. The Court can extend a final protective order, for good cause, but for no
    more than six months.

    Q. Are protective orders modifiable?  

    A. Yes. The Court can modify or rescind a protective order upon proper motion to
    the Court.

    Q. Are orders for protection issued in other states enforceable in Maryland?  

    A. Yes.  An order for protection issued elsewhere in the United States is valid in
    Maryland to the extent that what the order requires is permitted under Maryland
    law.  
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT
Domestic Abuse

NOTICE: None of these questions and answers constitute legal advice.
To obtain legal advice, consult with an attorney. This is especially
important in divorce and family law matters, in which outcomes are often
peculiar to the particular facts and circumstances of the case.
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