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Know the Laws: Maryland

UPDATED February 1, 2017

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

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A domestic violence protective order is a civil order that protects: a victim of domestic abuse from harm by someone with whom s/he has a specific relationship; a vulnerable adult from abuse by any person regardless of their relationship; or a child who is sexually abused (by anyone) or physically or mentally injured by a parent/caretaker. 

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Maryland?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a protective order (also known as a "domestic violence protective order," or "DVPO"). 

Maryland law defines "abuse" as when someone with whom you have a specific relationship commits one of the following against you:

If the abused person is a child, s/he can also get a domestic violence protective order based on "abuse of a child," which is defined as:

  1. sexual abuse of a child (by anyone), whether physical injuries are sustained or not; or
  2. the physical or mental injury of a child by:
    • a parent;
    • a person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child; 
    • any household or family member, under circumstances that indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed.**

If the abused person is a vulnerable adult (someone who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his/her daily needs), s/he can also get a domestic violence protective order based on "abuse of a vulnerable adult," which is defined as:

  • physical injury caused by any person (regardless of their relationship).  The physical injury can happen as the result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as the result of a malicious act.*** 

* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-501(b)(1)
** MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(b)(2); 5-701(b)
*** MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(b)(3); 14-101(b),(q)

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back to topWhat types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of protective orders:

Interim protective orders - If you wish to file for a protective order but the court clerk’s office is closed in both the circuit and district courts, you can file for an interim order by going to the nearest district court commissioner.  An interim order goes into effect once the respondent is served by a law enforcement officer.  The interim order lasts until a judge holds a temporary hearing, which is usually within a couple of days unless the judge postpones it.  If the court is closed on the day on which the interim protective order is due to expire, the interim protective order will be effective until the next day on which the court is open, at which time the judge has to hold a temporary protective order hearing.*

Temporary protective orders - When you go to court during normal court hours to file for a final protective order, you can ask for a temporary protective order, which can be issued the same day.  This order can be issued “ex parte” (without the abuser present) and without a full court hearing.  If the abuser is not present in court, law enforcement is supposed to serve him/her “immediately” after it is issued.  If the abuser was already served with an interim order and is present in court, s/he can be served with the temporary order in court or if s/he doesn’t show up to court, it will be served through the mail.  The temporary order is in effect for 7 days after service of the order, at which point a full court hearing will be held for a final protective order.  If the court is closed on the day on which the temporary protective order is due to expire, the temporary protective order will be effective until the second day on which the court is open, by which time the judge has to hold a final protective order hearing. The judge may extend the temporary order as needed, but not to more than 6 months.*1

Final protective orders - A final protective order can be issued only after both sides have the opportunity to present their evidence and testimony at a full court hearing.  If the judge believes that the abuse has occurred, or if the abuser agrees to you getting the protective order, the judge may grant a final protective order.*2  A final protective order will generally last up to one year, unless otherwise stated. However, it can last for up to two years, if:

  1. you had an order against the abuser before that lasted for at least 6 months, and s/he abused you again within 1 year of your old order expiring; or
  2. if the abuser consents to the 2-year order within 1 year after the date that your prior final protective order issued against him/her expired.*3  

Final orders may also be extended and it may be possible in the future to request a final protective order that lasts forever if certain circumstances are met.*4  See How do I change or extend my protective order? for more information.

* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-504.1(a),(b),(e)(1),(h)
*1 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-505(a)(1),(b),(c)
*2 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(c)(1)(ii)
*3 MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-506(j)(1),(2)
*4 MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-507(a); 4-506(k)(1),(3)

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back to topWhere can I file for a domestic violence protective order?

You can file for an order in any district court or circuit court in Maryland.  You can file in Maryland if the abuse happened in Maryland or if you live in Maryland (even if the abuse happened in another state).*

If the clerk’s office is open, you would file with the clerk.  If the clerk’s office is closed, you would file with a district court commissioner.**  Please visit our MD Courthouse Locations page to find courthouse contact information.

* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-504(a)(2)
** See the Maryland Courts website

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