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. For an overview of the legal system as it realted to LGBTQ survivors, download our document, Maryland State: LGBTQ Domestic Violence Laws. The remaining information on this page details the process for obtaining civil orders of protection.
- Making changes or taking a stand in your relationship can be difficult, especially if you’re afraid of your partner. Moving out, breaking up, or taking legal action can be a dangerous time for you and your family. If you are being hurt by a spouse, partner, or family member, assistance is available to help you protect yourself and your children.
- The information on this page includes detailed information about getting a Civil Protective Order or Peace Order (sometimes called a “restraining order” or “ex parte”) in Maryland. Whether or not you believe that filing for a Protective or Peace Order is the best decision for you, please call your local domestic violence program to discuss other options and to create a safety plan.
- Some people get Protective and Peace Orders because they want the abuse to stop immediately and they need the courts to help clarify issues about the house, children, and financial support.
- You may still need to go to a shelter or other safe place even if you have a Protective Order. BUT the Order gives police greater ability to respond if the Order is violated.
NOTE: While most survivors find peace or protective orders helpful, getting an order will not necessarily stop someone from coming near you or harming you, and in some situations may make them more angry and dangerous.
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. Effective October 1, 2015, an individual who has had a sexual relationship with the abuser within one year before the filing of the petition is now eligible for a Protective Order. You can apply for a Protective Order at Circuit or District Court.
If your relationship is not one of the above (Ex: someone you dated or are dating but with whom you don’t have a sexual relationship), you can file for a Peace Order instead. 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 law enforcement 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 fill out this form 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.
NOTE: The Temporary Order is valid only until the Final Protective Order Hearing. If you want the Order to continue, it is very important that you attend the hearing for the Final Order.
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. Your Final Peace or Protective Order will be granted by the judge if:
• your abuser consents (agrees) to the Order, OR
• the judge finds that abuse has occurred by “preponderance of evidence” (this means that the abuse most likely occurred).
Final Peace and Protective Orders take effect immediately. Protective Orders can last up to 12 months, or sometimes even longer under certain circumstances. Peace Orders can last up to six months. Before your Peace or Protective Order expires, you can request an extension. Protective Orders can be extended for up to six months. In certain circumstances, it could last longer. Peace Orders can last up to an additional six months.
In addition to the protections 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.
- As of October 1, 2015, you may request for the judge to grant you any other relief that s/he determines is necessary to protect you, i.e. obtaining important documents, providing health insurance, or staying away from a specific place.
NOTE: 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 if 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.
Law enforcement is required to arrest your abuser for violating “no contact” or “stay away” parts of an Interim, Temporary, or Final Protective or Peace Order. Violations may bring up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
For Protective Orders, all subsequent violations afterwards may bring up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. If your abuser violates other provisions of a Protective Order (child custody, visitation, financial support, counseling, firearms, etc.), they may be cited for “contempt of court.”
For Peace Orders, if your abuser violates other provisions (attend counseling, pay fees, etc.) they may be cited for “contempt of court.”
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)