If you have decided to take legal action against your abuser, assistance is available.
Protective & Peace Orders
Making changes or taking a stand in your relationship can be difficult. However, if you have decided to take legal action, assistance is available. Your local domestic violence program can help you decide if getting a Protective Order is right for you. Some organizations focus on legal help. These are listed under “Affiliated Programs” on our Domestic Service Provider listing and are marked with an asterisk (*).
Getting a Civil Protective Order or Peace Order
Sometimes these are called a “restraining order” or “ex parte” in Maryland. To be eligible for a Peace or Protective Order, you as the victim, or “petitioner,” must have been a victim of “abuse” as defined by Maryland law. This includes:
- An act that caused you physical harm
- An act that placed you in fear of serious bodily harm
- Assault in any degree
- Completed or attempted rape or sexual assault
- False imprisonment—keeping you somewhere against your will
Eligibility and How to File
Protective Order Eligibility
You are eligible to file for a Protective Order if you are being “abused” (definition above) by the following parties:
- A current or former spouse
- Someone with whom you have a child
- Someone you have lived with as a sexual partner for at least 90 days out of the past year (“cohabitant”)
- A parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild you have lived with for at least 90 days within the past year
- Any person to whom you are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
- An individual who has had a sexual relationship with the abuser within one year before the filing of the petition
A Note on Time Limitations
- Under a Peace Order, the abusive act must have occurred within the past 30 days.
- Under the Protective Order, the abusive act can have occurred at ANY time in the past. However, it is recommended to file as soon as possible.
Peace Order Eligibility
You are eligible to file for a Peace Order if you if you have experienced the following:
- Malicious destruction of property
You are eligible to file for a Peace Order if you are being “abused” by:
- Someone who does not fit the criteria for a Protective Order
- Someone you dated or are dating but with whom you don’t have a sexual relationship.
Where and When to File
Normally, you can file for a Peace or Protective Order in Court. If courts are open, you can file for a Temporary Peace or Protective Order at District Court and a hearing will be held before a judge on the same day. However, if court is not open, you can still get an order. When the courts are closed—like on weekends, holidays, and at night—you can get an interim Order from your local District Court Commissioner.
- For Temporary Protective Orders only, you can also file at Circuit Court instead of District Court.
- There is NO FEE for filing for a Protective or Peace Order. However, for Peace Orders, you must indicate that it is a “dating relationship” on the form, or there will be a filing fee.
You may want a lawyer for other legal needs. These issues include family law matters like divorce and child custody. You may also need an attorney for other issues such as housing or immigration. Some local domestic violence programs have lawyers on staff. Other programs can refer you to local attorneys. Contact your local domestic violence service provider for more information on how to reach an attorney.