christiani law

Domestic Violence Laws in Maryland: Protection Orders and Legal Recourse

December 15, 2023
Cyndi Christiani

Often called domestic abuse, the term domestic violence refers to certain crimes that occur between family members. If the persons involved are not currently in a domestic relationship but were in the past, the term domestic violence is still relevant.  

Facing a domestic violence charge takes a toll on every aspect of your life, and you face stiff penalties if you are convicted. Having an attorney on your side is best to ensure your rights are protected, and you are not unfairly convicted. At the Law Office of Cynthia Christiani, we are fierce advocates of persons accused of domestic violence. Contact our firm to learn more about how we can help.     

Protection Orders Explained

The court issues a protective order that states that a person must refrain from certain acts against another person. In other states, protection orders are sometimes known as restraining orders. 

Who Is Eligible For Protective Orders & How They Apply

The petition for a protective order is available on the website for Maryland courts, and the person filing may do so during court hours (or with the Commissioner’s Office of the District Court outside of court hours). A commissioner or judge then hears the petition, and if they believe reasonable grounds exist to warrant the order, they may issue an interim order of protection. It is important to note that the respondent (person against whom the order is being sought) in the action is not usually present at the hearing for the petition as they are not even notified that the hearing is occurring. However, they will be notified for subsequent hearings. 

Persons who may be eligible to petition for an order of protection in Maryland include:

  • Current Spouse
  • Former Spouse
  • Cohabitants
  • A person who is related to the respondent can be by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Parent
  • Stepparent
  • Stepchild (under certain circumstances)
  • Vulnerable Adults
  • A person who shares a child with the respondent
  • A person who alleges that the respondent committed a sexual offense or attempted rape against them within six months prior to the petition being filed

Types of Relief That Can Be Granted Under A Protective Order

Numerous forms of relief can be granted under a temporary protective order. They may be granted separately, or one or more can be granted together. Under Md. Family Law Code §4-505, the types of relief include:

  • Respondent may be ordered to refrain from further abuse or threats of abuse toward the person for whom relief has been requested;
  • Respondent may be ordered to refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing any person eligible for relief;
  • Respondent may be ordered to refrain from entering the residence of the person for whom relief has been requested;
  • Respondent may be ordered to vacate their home;
  • Respondent may, under some circumstances, be ordered to stay away from a childcare provider;
  • Temporary custody of a minor child of the person eligible for relief, and the respondent may be awarded;
  • Under certain circumstances, respondent may be ordered to surrender their firearms;
  • Temporary possession of any pet of the person eligible for relief, or the respondent may be awarded

Order Timeline: From Temporary Protective Order to Final Protective Order 

Courts often err on the side of caution when they have a person petitioning for a protective order and grant the order if they feel reasonable grounds exist for the petition to be granted. However, the type of order issued before the respondent is notified of the existence of the petition and given the opportunity to be heard is temporary in nature and, pursuant to statute Md. Family Law Code §4-505, not effective for more than seven days after the order is served. The order may be extended but not for a period that exceeds six months.  

In some circumstances, the judge may skip the temporary order altogether and issue a final protective order. Typically, this is done when:

  • The respondent appears at the hearing;
  • The respondent has been served with an interim protective order or
  • The court has personal jurisdiction over the respondent

Md. Family Law Code §4-506 allows the respondent to be heard on whether or not a judge should issue a final protective order. The temporary order shall state the date and time the hearing will be held for the final order. There are specific laws regarding what must be stated in the temporary order. They are designed to ensure that the respondent is given proper notice of the hearing and the possible consequences of failing to appear. If all the statute requirements are met, the judge may proceed with issuing a final protective order. 

What To Do If You Have Been Served With A Protective Order

If you have been served with a protective order, carefully read the terms of the order to understand what you are being court-ordered to do. Keep in mind that this is a civil matter, not a criminal one, although criminal charges may follow if the court order is violated. A protective order can easily disrupt your everyday life; you can be ordered to leave your home, and the petitioner may even be given temporary custody of any children you share. There will be a hearing soon after the temporary order is issued, and having an attorney by your side for this proceeding can help support your ability to protect your rights.

It is in your best interest to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine the steps you need to take to protect yourself and your rights during this process. When you are served with a protective order, contact the Law Office of Cynthia Christiani.

Speak With A Maryland Domestic Violence Attorney At The Law Office of Cynthia Christiani

If you have been charged with domestic violence in Maryland, or have been affected by an order of protection, you need representation from an experienced attorney. Contact attorney Cynthia Christiani to learn more about our services and how we can help.