Wobber Law Group represents both victims of domestic violence and people who have been accused of committing domestic violence in civil domestic violence matters.
In Maryland, there are two types of civil domestic violence actions: protective orders and peace orders. A person can petition for a protective order on behalf of themselves, their child, or another vulnerable adult. To be eligible for a protective order, the petitioner must be the current or former spouse of the alleged abuser, be in an intimate relationship with the alleged abuser sometime within the past year, be related to the alleged abuser, or have a child in common with the alleged abuser. If someone is eligible for a protective order, they need to demonstrate to the court that there has been some abuse including, but not limited to, an act causing serious bodily harm, an act placing a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, assault, mental injury to a minor child, or stalking.
Even if one is not eligible for a protective order, they can still file for a peace order. Anyone who is a resident of Maryland can petition for a peace order. Non-residents can even petition for a peace order so long as the alleged act that occurred happened in Maryland. In addition to the possible acts covered by a protective order, one can petition for a peace order in cases of, among other things, harassment, trespassing, malicious destruction of property, and misuse of phones or emails. However, to petition for a peace order, the alleged act must have occurred within 30 days of the time of the petition.
Both protective orders and peace orders are ordinarily filed in the District Court. However, if there is already a pending court case between the parties, or if there was such a court case in the past, a protective order can also be heard by the Circuit Court. Either way, the petitioner will need to appear before a judge and demonstrate that they have reasonable grounds for the court to issue a protective order or peace order. If they do have reasonable grounds, then they will receive a Temporary Protective Order or Temporary Peace Order and the court will schedule a hearing on whether to issue a Final Protective Order or Final Peace Order. That hearing will usually take place within a week.
At the final hearing, the petitioner must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the alleged act occurred. The respondent – the person against whom accusations of domestic violence have been raised – gets an opportunity to appear and defend themselves at the final hearing. If the petitioner can prove that it is more likely not that the abuse occurred, or if the respondent consents to the entry of the protective order or peace order, then the court will issue a Final Protective Order or Peace Order, which can last up to one year.
With both Temporary and Final Protective Orders and Temporary and Final Peace Orders, the court can order someone to stay away from another person, their residence, their place of employment or their school, and can order someone to stop contacting or even attempting to contact another person. With a Temporary or Final Protective Order, the court can also order the abuser to leave the home if both parties live together, give temporary custody to children of the parties to the petitioner, order the respondent to pay spousal support or child support, and a variety of other possible remedies.
It is also possible for the court to issue mutual protective orders or peace orders if the judge determines that both parties committed an act of abuse.
A violation of a protective order or peace order is a crime that can result in the respondent paying a fine or going to jail, and will usually result in the extension of the protective order or peace order. Protective and peace orders can also be extended if the petitioner can give the court a good reason to believe there is still a danger.
Given the huge impact that either a protective order or peace order can have on someone’s life, it is very important for petitioners and respondents to keep very good records and try to support their case with evidence such as police reports, medical records, photographs or videos of the alleged abuse, and calling witnesses to testify.
At Wobber Law Group, we recognize that there are two sides to every domestic violence allegation. Our team is devoted to making sure that your side is heard. Our expert attorneys will review every aspect of your case and create a personalized strategy to help you obtain a favorable outcome.
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