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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. 

Who can get a protective order

back to topAm I eligible for a protective order? Who can file the petition?

You can be eligible for a protective order if you or your minor child has been the victim of abuse by:

  • your current or former spouse;*
  • someone with whom you had a sexual relationship and with whom you lived for at least 90 days during the 1-year period before you filed for the protective order (known as a “cohabitant”);**
  • someone with whom you had a sexual relationship at some point in the 1-year period before the filing of the petition (even if you never lived together);
  • someone related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption; or
  • someone with whom you have a child in common.
  • Note: A parent, step-parent, child or step-child of you or the abuser can file for an order if s/he lived with you or the abuser for at least 90 days during the 1-year period before filing for the order.*

A “vulnerable adult,”* which is an adult who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his/her daily needs, can file for an order against any person (regardless of their relationship) who caused him/her physical injury as the result of cruel treatment or a malicious act.***

Any of the following people can file for a protective order for a minor child or vulnerable adult:

  • the minor or vulnerable adult himself/herself;
  • a person related to the child or vulnerable adult by blood, marriage or adoption;
  • an adult who lives with the child or vulnerable adult;
  • the state attorney (a lawyer working for the government) for the county where the child or vulnerable adult lives or where the abuse took place; or
  • the Department of Social Services in the county where the child or vulnerable adult lives or where the abuse took place.****

Note: If you are not eligible for a protective order, but you have been the victim of abuse and need protection, you may be eligible to file for a peace order.

* MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-501(m)
** MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-501(m); 4-501(d)
*** MD Code, Fam. Law § 14-101(b),(q)
**** MD Code Family Law § 4-501(o)

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back to topCan a minor file for an order?

The law says that any "person who is eligible for relief" can file for a protective order.*  Therefore, a minor who meets the criteria in explained in Am I eligible for a protective order? Who can file the petition? should be able to file his/her own petition. However, to be certain that the court in your county interprets the law in this way to allow a minor to file his/her own petition, you may want to ask the court clerk or a lawyer in your county ahead of time.  To find courthouse contact information and attorney referrals, you can go to our MD Where to Find Help page.  

In addition, the following people can file on the minor's behalf

  • a person related to the minor child by blood, marriage or adoption;
  • an adult who lives with the minor child;
  • the state attorney (a lawyer working for the government) for the county where the minor child lives or where the abuse took place; or
  • the Department of Social Services in the county where the minor child lives or where the abuse took place.**

* MD Code Family Law § 4-501(m),(o)(2)(i)
** MD Code Family Law § 4-501(o)(2)(ii)

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back to topCan I get a protective order against a same-sex partner?

In Maryland, you may apply for a protective order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible for a protective order? Who can file the petition? You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained here: What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Maryland?

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back to topHow much does it cost to get a protective order?

Nothing.  There is no fee to file for (or to serve) a protective order.*

You do not need a lawyer to file for a protective order, but it may be helpful to have one represent you. This is especially important if the abuser has a lawyer and/or if the case goes to trial.  Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, we suggest that you talk to a lawyer to make sure your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations on the MD Where to Find Help page. In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms. You will find contact information for courthouses on the MD Courthouse Locations page.

* MD Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-504(c)

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