Domestic Violence in Maryland
Domestic Violence is a serious and prevalent issue that is all too common. It occurs when an individual makes threats of abuse or abuses another when they are in an intimate relationship. An intimate relationship is defined as married couples, domestic partners, people who are dating or used to date, have lived together or have a child together. This type of violence is more than just a family issue – it is a crime. One of every two families in the United States is involved in some form of domestic violence. A cycle of abuse is often created as victims or witnesses of domestic violence in childhood are more likely to repeat such acts when they are adults.
The laws governing domestic violence generally include abuse such as physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, sexual assault, making someone reasonably afraid that they, or someone else, are about to be seriously hurt (like with a threat) or behavior such as stalking, threatening, destroying someone’s property or harassing them. As one might think, physical abuse is not limited to hitting someone. It includes kicking, pushing, pulling, restraining, shoving, throwing things or threatening family pets.
Nor is domestic abuse limited to only physical acts of violence. Abuse can be spoken, emotional or psychological. Abuse takes many forms and abusers often use a combination of tactics to control and intimidate the targeted individual.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can seek assistance through the courts and the police. The police can detain the abuser if appropriate. You can also seek a domestic violence protective order from the court. Generally, domestic violence protective orders are court orders that help protect individuals (and children) from abuse or the threat of abuse if you have a close relationship with the abuser. If you are a parent, or if your child is also being abused, you can request a protective order that includes your child as a protected individuals.
Conversely, if someone has filed a protective order against you (whether you actually committed the act or are being falsely accused), you must take immediate legal steps to protect yourself, your property and access to and custody of your children or the court may order that you have limited access to that person, child, or property for a period of a year or longer.
When someone requests a protective order, he or she will need to file court forms explaining what type of orders is being sought and why the order is sought. This requires no monetary fee. The judge (or Commissioner if it occurs during the night or weekend) will determine whether to grant an interim or temporary protective order on the spot. If the judge grants the request, the protective order is only temporary in nature until the court schedules a final hearing date and the accused is actually served with a copy of the temporary (or interim) protective order. This allows the alleged abuser an opportunity to respond to the allegations in the event that the claims are distorted or falsified. At the final court hearing on the protective order, both parties shall appear and the judge will determine whether it is appropriate to continue, modify or cancel the existing protective order.
While you are not required to retain a lawyer to ask for, or defend against, protective orders, it is a good idea to have an attorney on your side during this process. An attorney can help you tell your story effectively to the court and clearly assist you with the procedural process of requesting, or defending against, protective orders. During such a period where you are experiencing high amounts of stress and emotional turmoil, it is helpful to have a legal advocate on your side.
The court process can be confusing and intimidating. Both parties will have to face each other in court and both will have to tell the judge details of what happened in a public courtroom. Having a lawyer will help make the process easier to handle. I am experienced in guiding my clients through, and defending, this process and supporting a client every step of the way. Please remember, if we meet, our conversation is confidential. If you find yourself in a situation, such as the one I just described, please call me at (240) 617-0404.