If you or your minor child are a victim of abuse, you can file for a protective order 24 hours a day at a commissioner’s office in your local District Court building (or at a Circuit Court during regular business hours). To be eligible for a protective order, as opposed to a peace order, typically there needs to be a prior relationship with the opposing party. Protective orders can be issued for the following types of situations:
- an act that caused serious bodily harm
- an act that placed the petitioner in fear of imminent bodily harm
- assault in any degree
- rape or sexual offense
- attempted rape or sexual offense
- false imprisonment
- criminal stalking
Other types of conduct, such as trespass, malicious destruction, or harassment would require a peace order instead of a protective order. More information can be found in the following District Court pamphlet: http://mdcourts.gov/courtforms/joint/ccdcdvpo001br.pdf
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and have the authorities ensure your safety. Once you are safe, you can file for a protective order at a commissioner’s office without the other side being present. Most likely, you will receive an Interim or Temporary Order that prohibits the respondent from entering your residence for about one week until a Final Protective Order hearing takes place. Attorneys usually become involved at the Final Protective Order hearing, as opposed to the initial filing. Nevertheless, it is advantageous to contact an attorney as soon as possible, whether you are a petitioner or respondent.
A Protective Order is an emergency remedy aimed at putting the parties in a safe situation. It is not a substitute for a child custody or divorce case. Protective Orders should only be sought for the types of conduct listed above, not to gain an advantage in custody or divorce cases. However, in the right circumstance, it provides invaluable assistance to a victim of abuse to receive temporary relief while they have time to file a custody or divorce case for more permanent relief.