Legal Options in Maryland
In Maryland, victims of domestic violence can seek relief from the courts in the form of pursuing criminal charges, family law remedies, or civil orders of protection. Local domestic violence programs and domestic violence legal services are available to assist you through the courts system. The remaining information on this page details the process for obtaining civil orders of protection.
Peace and Protective Orders
In Maryland, you can petition the court for protection against the person who has abused you. Has your current or former partner:
- Physically harmed or assaulted you?
- Put you in fear of being seriously harmed?
- Forced you (or tried to force you) to engage in sexual activities against your will?
- Persistently followed you or approached you in a way that made you feel threatened or fearful of being harmed?
- Kept you someplace against your will?
If you can answer yes to the above questions, you may be eligible for a Peace Order or a Protective Order from the courts.
You are eligible to apply for a Protective Order if you and your current or former partner were ever married, if you have a child together, or if you lived together for at least 3 months in the past year. You can apply for a Protective Order at Circuit or District Court.
If you and your current or former partner never married, haven’t had children together, and don’t live together (or if you’ve lived together for less than 3 months), then you can apply for a Peace Order. In addition to the questions above, you can also apply for a Peace Order if you’ve experienced harassment, trespassing, or if your property was destroyed. The harm you experienced must have occurred within the past 30 days in order to apply for a Peace Order. You can apply for a Peace Order only at District Court.
Interim Order (when Court is closed)
If you need to apply for protection after business hours, on the weekend, or a holiday, you can apply for an Interim Peace or Protective Order with a District Court Commissioner. Click here for Commissioner locations. If you can go to court during business hours, see the Temporary Order below.
An Interim Order starts as soon as it is given to your abuser by a police officer. Protective and Peace Orders may order your abuser to stop all abuse; to stop contacting and harassing you; to stop threatening you; to stay away from your home, temporary residence, work, or school. Additional reliefs provided by a Protective Order may include: staying away from the children’s school and daycare provider, family member’s homes, and any surrounding areas.
An Interim Order will list the date for a “temporary order hearing,” which is usually held within two business days. The interim order is effective until midnight of the second business day after you apply for the order, or until the temporary order hearing.
During regular business hours, you can apply for a Protective or Peace Order at the Civil Clerk’s Desk in either District or Circuit Court. Click here for District Court locations.
Once you complete the petition form, you will see a judge the same day in a “temporary order hearing.” As long as the judge has reasonable grounds to believe abuse occurred, a Temporary Order will be issued.
A Temporary Order starts as soon as it is given to your abuser by a police officer. Protective and Peace Orders may order your abuser to stop all abuse; to stop contacting and harassing you; to stop threatening you; to stay away from your home, temporary residence, work, or school. In addition, Protective Orders may order your abuser to stay away from your children’s school and daycare provider, family member’s homes, and any surrounding areas; to leave your home immediately, giving you temporary ownership of the house; or award you temporary custody of a minor child.
A Temporary Order will list the date for a “final order hearing,” which is usually held within seven days. If the police have difficulty giving your abuser the Order, then the Temporary Order may be extended. The temporary order is in effect until the date of the protective order hearing.
For Interim and Temporary Protective Orders, you can download a PDF file of the petition here. You can print this form, fill it out privately, and file it in person at the local District or Circuit Court. Please only download this document if you are on a safe computer.
You may bring an attorney to this hearing, or you may bring a court companion from your local domestic violence program. Your abuser may be there as well. Bring any evidence you have that abuse occurred, including witnesses, police or medical reports, documentation, objects used to injure you, photographs, etc. The judge needs “clear and convincing evidence that abuse has occurred.”
A Peace Order can last for up to 6 months, with the possibility of a 6 month extension. A Protective Order can last for up to 12 months, with a possibility of a 6 month extension. In addition to the protection you have under the Interim or Temporary order, the Protective Order requires that your abuser must surrender and cannot possess firearms, and may grant you full custody of your children, financial support, use of the car, and a requirement for your abuser to attend a batterer’s intervention program. If you plan to pursue financial support, you will need to document financial information. The form is available for download in a PDF format here. Please only download documents is you are on a safe computer.
Once the judge awards you a Protective or Peace Order, keep a copy of it with you at all times. Tell your work, your neighbors, and your child’s school that you have an order but may still be in danger. If your abuser violates any part of the order, dial 911 and call the police. Many violations of protective orders can result in arrest. Filing for Contempt of Court is another option for you. The Contempt of Court form is available to download in a PDF file here. Please only download documents if you are on a safe computer.
Modifying or Dropping an Order
There are circumstances when you may want to modify a protective order or drop (‘rescind’) a protective order. This can be done by filing a form and having a hearing. The form to modify or drop a protective order is located here. Please only download documents if you are on a safe computer.
Additional information about the Peace and Protective Order process is available on the Maryland Judiciary website.
Download the 2014 Maryland Legal Resources book for a comprehensive list of legal service providers in Maryland, published by the Pro Bono Legal Resource Center of Maryland.
Download the 2014 Guide to Legal Services Branch Office Supplement, published by the Pro Bono Legal Resource Center of Maryland for locations of State’s Attorney’s offices, Public Defender offices, Legal Aid offices, and Child Support Enforcement offices.
Selected Domestic Violence Legal Services Providers
Many of the comprehensive domestic violence service providers offer legal information, legal advocacy, court accompaniment, referrals to pro bono or low bono attorneys, and may have attorneys on staff.
SALI (Sexual Assault Legal Institute)
Silver Spring, MD 20907
Services provided: Civil legal services for victims and survivors of sexual assault (including domestic violence-related and intimate partner sexual assault); training and technical assistance for attorneys and other professionals working with survivors
POARP (Protective Order Advocacy and Representation Project) Baltimore County
1st floor, Baltimore County Circuit Court, 401 Bosley Ave. Towson, MD 21204
Services provided: Assist victims in Baltimore County with protective orders, accompaniment to criminal proceedings, advocacy, safety planning, and referrals
POARP Baltimore City
Room 100, Circuit Court for Baltimore City, 111 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, MD 21202
Services provided: Assist victims in Baltimore city with protective orders, accompaniment to criminal proceedings, advocacy, safety planning, and referrals
POARP – Carroll County
Carroll Co. Courthouse Annex, 55 N. Court Street Suite 208 Westminster, MD 21157
Services provided: Assist victims in Carroll County with protective orders, accompaniment to criminal proceedings, advocacy, safety planning, and referrals. Serves Circuit and District courts.
House of Ruth Legal Clinic – Main office, Baltimore, MD
(888) 880-7884 or (410) 554-8463
Services provided through all House of Ruth Legal Clinics: Civil and criminal legal representation to help women obtain protective orders and peace orders, divorce decrees, custody of their children, and child support
House of Ruth Legal Clinic – Hyattsville, MD office
House of Ruth Legal Clinic – Hyattsville Courthouse
House of Ruth Legal Clinic – Upper Marlboro Courthouse
House of Ruth Legal Clinic – Rockville Circuit Court
Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy
23918 Mervell Dean Road, Hollywood, MD 20636
Service provided: Legal assistance with protective orders and family law in St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties
Women’s Law Center
305 West Chesapeake Ave. Suite 201 Towson, MD 21204
Services provided: Family Law Hotline 1-800-845-8550; Legal forms help: 1-800-818-9888; Spanish Speaking Attorney: 1-877-293-2507 (Leave a message)