Maryland

How to apply for a Protective Order or Peace Order in Maryland :

Free legal assistance may be available for victims of domestic violence through various support agencies. To request legal assistance and representation ask the clerk for information on local service providers or contact the House of Ruth at 1-888-880-7884.

Step 1: Complete the correct petition

The petitions (forms) for protective orders can be obtained from any circuit or District Court clerk or District Court commissioner. Petitions for peace orders must be obtained from a District Court clerk or commissioner. All forms are available at: www.mdcourts.gov/courtforms.

What will the Order do?

Peace and protective orders are intended to provide protection for the Petitioner and other individuals named in the order. The Respondent may be ordered to:

stop threatening or committing abusestay away from the Petitioner’s home, place of employment or school

have no contact with the Petitioner or others

A protective order may also:

award temporary use and possession of the home to the Petitioneraward temporary custody of children to the Petitioner

award temporary financial support

require the Respondent to surrender all firearms and refrain from possession of firearms for the duration of the Order. (State law requires the Respondent to surrender all firearms to a law enforcement agency if a Final Protective Order is issued.)

award temporary possession of any pet of person eligible for relief or Respondent

Step 2: File the petition

During normal business hours, file the petition with a circuit or District Court clerk (District Court for peace orders). Once the petition is filed, you will be directed into a courtroom as soon as a judge is available to hear your case.

Step 2a: Interim Order

When courts are closed,District Court commissioners may issue Interim Peace and Protective Orders to last until a judge holds a temporary hearing.

An interim order goes into effect once the Respondent is served by a law enforcement officer.

Step 3: Appear for a temporary hearing

When you appear before a judge, you will be required to answer questions under oath. If the judge finds reasonable grounds to believe that the Respondent committed the acts alleged in the petition, (and in the case of a peace order, is likely to do so again) a temporary order is granted. The order goes into effect once a law enforcement officer serves the Respondent and generally lasts for seven days unless extended by a judge.

Step 4: Appear for a final hearing

A final hearing is usually scheduled within seven days after the order is served. At the hearing, both parties may present evidence. However, if the Respondent does not attend, the judge may still grant a final order if at the trial the judge finds clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent committed the alleged act against the Petitioner, as defined under the law, (and in the case of a peace order, is likely to do so again). Instead of a trial, the Respondent may consent to the entry of a final order.

A Final Protective Order: (a) may be in effect for as long as one (1) year, and the court for good cause may extend the term of the Final Protective Order for an additional six (6) months after a further hearing; or (b) may be extended for a period not to exceed two (2) years, if a judge finds the Respondent has committed a subsequent act of abuse against the Petitioner or a protected person; or (c) may last for as long as two (2) years, if there is a finding that this is a subsequent act of abuse committed within one (1) year after the date that a prior Final Protective Order issued against the same Respondent on behalf of the same person eligible for relief expires, and the prior Final Protective Order was issued for a period of at least six (6) months.

A peace order may last up to six (6) months and can be extended for an additional six (6) months for good cause, after notice to parties and hearing.

Frequently asked questions

Where do I file?

A petition for a peace order may be filed only in District Court. A petition for a protective order may be filed in District Court or in a circuit court. If the clerk’s office is open, you must file with the clerk. If the clerk’s office is closed, file with a District Court commissioner. To locate a court, visit the Judiciary website at www.mdcourts.gov or look under the government pages of your phone book.

Is there a deadline for filing?

A petition for a peace order must be filed within 30 days of the act described within the petition. There is no specified time frame for filing a protective order.

Can criminal charges also be filed?

Peace and protective orders are civil orders, and are not criminal charges. If you wish to file for criminal charges, see a District Court commissioner or a state’s attorney.

What happens if an order is violated?

Violation of an order may result in a finding of contempt, mandatory arrest, criminal prosecution, imprisonment, or fine.

Do I need a lawyer?

An attorney may be helpful in advising you about your case and representing you in court. However, you are not required to have an attorney.

What happens if the court closes unexpectedly on the day your order expires?

For Interim Protective or Peace Orders – the order is in effect until the next day the court is open.

For Temporary Protective or Peace Orders – the order is in effect until the second day the court is open.