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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence 

Domestic violence in Maryland is becoming an increasing problem. Both for petitioners (the person bringing the claim) and for the respondent (person who is being accused). The amount of cases being filed has been on the rise. There is no community or demographic that is immune to domestic violence. If you are being harmed by a partner, help is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Domestic violence cases are civil cases that can be brought in either the District Court or the Circuit Court. Which Court you file in can make a huge impact on your case as well as any other concurrent case. Here at BGS Law, LLC we can help you decide as to which Court you should file in and whether one Court is more appropriate than another.

Maryland Domestic Violence Law

The first step in any domestic violence matter is to assess whether a case even exists. The Domestic Violence Statutes can be found in the Family Law Article and begin at §4-501. If you are the petitioner, you must be able to prove that an act of abuse occurred. If you are the respondent, you must demonstrate to the Court that no abuse occurred and therefore the requested relief should be denied by the Court. 

A Protective Order is issued by a judge when the petitioner and respondent have some type of domestic relationship and abuse has been shown. 

Md. Family Law Article §4-501 defines “abuse” as;

  • An act that causes serious bodily harm
  • An act that places you in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
  • Assault in any degree
  • Rape or sexual offense
  • Attempted rape or attempted sexual offense
  • Criminal stalking
  • False imprisonment – keeping you somewhere against your will
  • Criminal revenge porn

What Can the Protective Order Include?

In the event the Court finds there has been an act of abuse, the Court will decide as to what relief to grant the petitioner (and any other eligible persons for relief).  Maryland Family Law Article §4-506 outlines the authority the Court has after making a finding that abuse has occurred:

   (d)    The final protective order may include any or all of the following relief:

        (1)    order the respondent to refrain from abusing or threatening to abuse any person eligible for relief;

        (2)    order the respondent to refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing any person eligible for relief;

        (3)    order the respondent to refrain from entering the residence of any person eligible for relief;

        (4)    where the person eligible for relief and the respondent are residing together at the time of the abuse, order the respondent to vacate the home immediately and award temporary use and possession of the home to the person eligible for relief or, in the case of alleged abuse of a child or alleged abuse of a vulnerable adult, award temporary use and possession of the home to an adult living in the home, provided that the court may not grant an order to vacate and award temporary use and possession of the home to a nonspouse person eligible for relief unless the name of the person eligible for relief appears on the lease or deed to the home or the person eligible for relief has shared the home with the respondent for a period of at least 90 days within 1 year before the filing of the petition;

        (5)    order the respondent to remain away from the place of employment, school, or temporary residence of a person eligible for relief or home of other family members;

        (6)    order the respondent to remain away from a child care provider of a person eligible for relief while a child of the person is in the care of the child care provider;

        (7)    award temporary custody of a minor child of the respondent and a person eligible for relief;

        (8)    establish temporary visitation with a minor child of the respondent and a person eligible for relief on a basis which gives primary consideration to the welfare of the minor child and the safety of any other person eligible for relief. If the court finds that the safety of a person eligible for relief will be jeopardized by unsupervised or unrestricted visitation, the court shall condition or restrict visitation as to time, place, duration, or supervision, or deny visitation entirely, as needed to guard the safety of any person eligible for relief;

        (9)    award emergency family maintenance as necessary to support any person eligible for relief to whom the respondent has a duty of support under this article, including an immediate and continuing withholding order on all earnings of the respondent in the amount of the ordered emergency family maintenance in accordance with the procedures specified in Title 10, Subtitle 1, Part III of this article;

        (10)    award temporary use and possession of a vehicle jointly owned by the respondent and a person eligible for relief to the person eligible for relief if necessary for the employment of the person eligible for relief or for the care of a minor child of the respondent or a person eligible for relief;

        (11)    except when a protective order is issued for a person eligible for relief described in § 4–501(m)(7) of this subtitle, direct the respondent or any or all of the persons eligible for relief to participate in professionally supervised counseling or a domestic violence program;

        (12)    order the respondent to pay filing fees and costs of a proceeding under this subtitle;

        (13)    award temporary possession of any pet of the person eligible for relief or the respondent; or

        (14)    order any other relief that the judge determines is necessary to protect a person eligible for relief from abuse.

Modifying, Rescinding, or Extending Order

If a Domestic Violence Petition is granted, there are circumstances that allow for them to be modified, rescinded, or extended.  Md. FL §4–507 outlines the provisions for such an action:

    (a)    (1)    A protective order may be modified or rescinded during the term of the protective order after:

            (i)    giving notice to all affected persons eligible for relief and the respondent; and

            (ii)    a hearing.

        (2)    For good cause shown, a judge may extend the term of the protective order for 6 months beyond the period specified in § 4–506(j) of this subtitle, after:

            (i)    giving notice to all affected persons eligible for relief and the respondent; and

            (ii)    a hearing.

        (3)    (i)    Subject to subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, 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.

            (ii)    The judge may extend the term of the protective order under subparagraph (i) of this paragraph after:

  1. giving notice to all affected persons eligible for relief and the respondent; and
  2. a hearing.

            (iii)    In determining the period of extension of a protective order under subparagraph (i)1 of this paragraph, the judge shall consider the following factors:

  1. the nature and severity of the subsequent act of abuse;
  2.     the history and severity of abuse in the relationship between the respondent and any person eligible for relief named in the protective order;
  3. the pendency and type of criminal charges against the respondent; and
  4.     the nature and extent of the injury or risk of injury caused by the respondent.

        (4)    (i)    If, during the term of a final protective order, a petitioner or person eligible for relief files a motion to extend the term of the order under paragraph (2) or (3) of this subsection, the court shall hold a hearing on the motion within 30 days after the motion is filed.

            (ii)    If the hearing on the motion is scheduled after the original expiration date of the final protective order, the court shall extend the order and keep the terms of the order in full force and effect until the hearing on the motion.

    (b)    (1)    If a District Court judge grants or denies relief under a petition filed under this subtitle, a respondent, any person eligible for relief, or a petitioner may appeal to the circuit court for the county where the District Court is located.

        (2)    An appeal taken under this subsection to the circuit court shall be heard de novo in the circuit court.

        (3)    If an appeal is filed under this subsection, the District Court judgment shall remain in effect until superseded by a judgment of the circuit court. Unless the circuit court orders otherwise, modification or enforcement of the District Court order shall be by the District Court.

Importance of Hiring an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney

It is possible a Judge can find that abuse has occurred but not offer the Petitioner all the relief requested.  It is also possible that once an Order is issued it can be modified.  No matter how “easy” you believe your case may be, someone versed in both case law and the statutes when it comes to 1) defining abuse and 2) addressing remedies is key.

Many people, Petitioners and Respondents alike, will find that the Domestic Violence case is either the beginning of another case (divorce, custody, modification, guardianship) or can be occurring during, or even after, another case. It is not unusual to find yourself in the middle of a domestic violence suit while also engaged in another suit.

We here at BGS Law, LLC understand that and can help you assess what to do. Contact us today to discuss your situation.

For more information, contact us today.

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