Situation: Tamika has been dating Kurt for six months. Since Tamika has found out that she is pregnant, Kurt has not been acting like himself. He loses his temper very quickly and has hit her the last few times they have been alone. Tamika has asked Kurt not to come near her anymore, but Kurt keeps showing up and insisting that she go home with him.
Question: Can Tamika do anything about this behavior?
Answer: Yes! Tamika can file for a protective order. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501 (m). Final protective orders are court orders that require one person to stay away from another for one year and the police can arrest those who break this order. In Maryland, a minor can obtain an order of protection from either the District Court or Circuit Court of their county.
So, what is a protective order?
A protective order is a court order from a judge that makes one person stay away from another if they have had a sexual relationship within the last year, have lived in the same home for 90 days or more in the past year, are related to the respondent, or has a child in common with the respondent. The order mandates that someone who is accused of abuse of another person must stay away from that person’s home, school, or place of work, and prevents the abuser from contacting the abused.
What kinds of abusive behavior makes one eligible to apply for a protective order?
The following acts of abuse may allow a minor to qualify for a protective order: An act that causes serious bodily harm (e.g., kicking, punching, choking/strangling, shoving, shooting, hitting with an object, stabbing, or biting); an act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm (including threats of harm); assault; rape or sexual assault (including attempts); false imprisonment; revenge porn under § 3-809 of the Criminal Law Article; mental injury to a minor child; or stalking. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501 (a)
So, who can a protective order be filed against?
A protective order can be filed against an abuser who 1) had a sexual relationship with the victim within the last year, 2) lived in the same home for 90 days or more in the past year, 3) are related to the respondent, or has a child in common with the respondent. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501 (m). The order mandates that someone who is accused of abuse of another person must stay away from that person’s home, school, or place of work, and prevents the abuser from contacting the abused.
What are the different types of protective orders?
Interim: These are filed for when the court is closed. The minor goes to the court commissioner with an adult filing on their behalf and makes their case as to why they should be protected from the person who committed the abuse. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-504.1.
Temporary: The minor must tell their story in court and make a case as to why they should be protected from the person who committed the abuse. They must prove, using enough credible evidence, that an act of abuse has been committed. This order lasts for one week. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-505. When the temporary protective order is granted, the judge will also set a date for a hearing when the final protective order can be issued, no later than a week after. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-506 (b)(1).
Final: This order lasts for one year, if granted. The standard is “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the judge needs to believe one side slightly more than the other. This is lower than the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” At the final hearing, both parties are able to provide testimony and witnesses. Each side is also able to cross-examine the witnesses for the other side. The minor may testify if the judge permits it. Often, courts will not allow anyone under the age of 16 onto the witness stand. At the end of the trial period, the judge will decide whether or not a final order should be granted. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-506.
See at the bottom of this page for ways to extend the order.
When should someone consider a protective order?
A minor, with the support of an adult on their behalf, can ask for a protective order against their partner, parent(s), or a household member who is abusing them. The support adult must either be related to the minor or reside in the same home as the minor. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501(o)(2)(ii)(3)-(4).
What will a protective order mean for a pregnant minor?
A protective order can give a pregnant minor the time to find a safe place to live away from her parents or abuser. She may decide that another adult should have legal guardianship of her until she reaches 18 years of age. She can also use this time to consider filing for emancipation from her parents or other family members that may have been abusive.
How does a minor get a protective order?
To get a protective order, a minor can call the victim assistance offices in the State’s Attorney’s Office to get information on how to file her application, or go to her local court and file for one in person.
In addition to a supporting adult, the following persons may also seek relief from abuse on behalf of a minor:
- the State’s Attorney for the county where the child lives, or, if different, where the abuse is alleged to have taken place
- the department of social services that has jurisdiction in the county where the child lives, or, if different, where the abuse is alleged to have taken place;
How long will it take?
A commissioner will determine if he or she will grant an interim order, or a judge will determine if he or she will grant a temporary protective order (TPO). The TPO will state that the person accused of abuse (the respondent) must stay away from the minor until the final hearing within 7 days. If the TPO is granted, a hearing will be set for one week later. The respondent will be informed of the TPO and will have the opportunity to give evidence why a final order should not be granted. After the formal hearing, a judge will decide whether a final protective order should be granted. These orders last up to one year. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law §§ 4-505 – 4-506
If the respondent was not informed of the TPO in time to make the final hearing, then the TPO can be extended for up to 6 months. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-505 (c)(2) The petitioner can file for a waiver of appearance with the court so that the petitioner does not have to show up in court every week until the respondent is served. The petitioner can also sign up for “Vine” at that point. “Vine” is a service that will notify the minor and the adult representing the minor that the respondent has been informed and that the minor must now appear in court.
If the minor does not live with the respondent, has not had a sexual relationship with them, does not share a child in common with them, or does not meet the statutory requirements for a protective order, then that minor can file for a peace order through the same process. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-1503
For more information about the difference between protective orders and peace orders, visit this resource: Protective vs. Peace Orders in MD
A judge can help make some decisions for the minor by deciding where she can live and if her parent or legal guardian needs to pay any type of child support to her.
To file on behalf of a minor the adult must either be related to the minor by blood, marriage, or adoption, or reside in the same home with the minor. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-501(o)(2)(ii)(3)-(4).
In the case of an emergency when the courthouse is closed, the minor can still go to the court commissioner and file for an interim order before seeing a judge during the next available business hours to get a temporary protective order. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-504.1.
The laws can be very complicated, so it is important to have assistance from organizations that specialize in assisting minors in obtaining protective orders, such as House of Ruth or the Women’s Law Center of Maryland. Generally, these organizations will not provide legal assistance until the minor is in the process of obtaining a final protective order.
Ways to extend a final protective order:
A minor may apply to the court to have their order extended with the help of an adult and the judge may grant this after the abuser is given notice and after a hearing in front of a judge. The hearing must take place within 30 days after the minor files their motion. If the hearing is scheduled after the original expiration date of the final protective order, the order will be extended until the hearing. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(2), (a)(4).
Initially a judge can extend the protective order (without any new incidents of abuse) for 6 months beyond the time it is supposed to end if the minor can show “good cause” why it should be extended. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(2).
A judge may extend the term of a protective order for a period not to exceed 2 years from the date the extension is granted if: 1. during the term of the protective order, the judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent named in the protective order has committed a subsequent act of abuse against a person eligible for relief named in the protective order; OR 2. the respondent named in the protective order consents to the extension of the protective order. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-507(a)(3).