Maryland Courts

Domestic Violence

What Courts?
Forms
  • See the forms listed on this page

What is Domestic Violence?
Maryland law defines domestic violence “abuse” as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between “family or household members”:

  • Assault
  • An act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
  • An act that causes serious bodily harm
  • Rape or sexual offense
  • Attempt rape or sexual offense
  • Stalking
  • False imprisonment, such as interference with freedom, physically keeping you from leaving your home or kidnapping you.

What Can the Courts Do?
Depending on your relationship to the alleged abuser, there are two types of civil relief: a protective order and a peace order.  Protective orders are the main vehicle of civil relief for victims of domestic violence.

Protective Orders

What are Protective Orders?
Protective orders are civil orders issued by a judge that orders one person to refrain from committing certain acts against others.

Who Can File for Protective Orders?
You are eligible for a protective order if you and the alleged abuser:

  • Are current or former spouses
  • Have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year
  • Are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Are in a parent-child, or stepparent-stepchild relationship and have resided together for at least 90 days during the past year
  • Are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship
  • Are the parents of a child together

How Can I File for a Protective Order?

  1. Complete a Petition for Protective Order (CC-DC/DV1)
  2. File at the right location
    • You can file the petition with the clerk’s office of either a Circuit Court or District Court during court business hours
    • If the court is closed, file the petition with the commissioner’s office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day. During court business hours, you must file with the court and not one of the commissioners.

How Can a Protective Order Help Me?

If you file for a protective order, you can ask the judge for certain kinds of help:

Protective Order
In an Interim or Temporary Protective Order, the judge can order that the abuser:
  • Stop abusing you.
  • Stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, or the place where you may be staying, stay away from your child’s school, and from your family members’ homes.
  • Stay out of your house.
  • Leave the home where the two of you live, if you are married to the abuser, AND you were living with your abuser at the time of the abuse.
  • Leave the home if you are not married to the abuser, but were living with the abuser at the time of the abuse, AND your name is on the lease or deed for the house, OR you lived with the abuser for at least 90 days within the past year.
  • The judge can also give you temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser.

In a Final Protective Order, a judge can order any of the above, and can also:

  • Establish temporary visitation with children.
  • Award emergency family maintenance.
  • Award use and possession of jointly titled car.
  • Order counseling.
  • Order the abuser to surrender all firearms.
  • Order the abuser to pay filing fees and court costs.

How can I limit public access to court records about me in a protective or peace order case?

For Petitioners (the alleged victim)
See our brochure, "Can I keep the public from seeing information about me in a court case?"

For Respondents (the alleged abuser)

See our brochure, "Can I keep the public from seeing information about me in a peace or protective order case?"

Peace Orders

What are Peace Orders?
A Peace Order is a form of legal protection for anyone who is experiencing problems with an individual, including someone in a dating relationship, a neighbor, a stranger, or anyone else.  The peace order enables an individual who wishes to be left alone to ask the Court for an order for the other person to stay away and refrain from any contact.

A Peace Order allows any person who has been subjected to abuse, harassment, stalking, trespass, or malicious destruction of property to seek relief from the court.  Unlike protective orders, the nature of the relationship between the parties is not a factor when petitioning the court for a Peace Order.  If an individual is entitled to relief in a protective order hearing they are not entitled to seek relief under the Peace Order Act.

How can I file for a peace order?

  1. Complete a Petition for Peace Order(DC/PO 1).
  2. File it at the right location
    • File the petition with the clerk’s office of the District Court
    • If the court is closed, file the petition with the commissioner’s office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day. During court business hours, however, you must file with the court, not one of the commissioners.

How can a protective or peace order help me?
If you file for a peace order, you can ask the judge for certain kinds of help:

Peace Order
In an Interim or Temporary Peace Order, the judge can order that the abuser:

  • Stop abusing you.
  • Stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, or the place where you may be staying.

In a Final Peace Order, a judge can order any of the above, and can also:

  • Order counseling.
  • Order mediation.
  • Order the abuser to pay filing fees and court costs.

How can I limit public access to court records about me in a protective or peace order case?

For Petitioners (the alleged victim)
See our brochure, "Can I keep the public from seeing information about me in a court case?"

For Respondents (the alleged abuser)
See our brochure, "Can I keep the public from seeing information about me in a peace or protective order case?"

The Difference Between a Protective Order and a Peace Order

Whether you are eligible for a peace or protective order depends on your relationship to the person you claim caused you harm, and the type of abuse you claim happened.

Depending on your relationship to the alleged abuser, there are two types of legal remedies: a protective order and a peace order.

File for a protective order if you and the alleged abuser:

  • Are current or former spouses
  • Have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year
  • Are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Are in a parent-child, or stepparent-stepchild relationship and have resided together for at least 90 days during the past year
  • Are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship
  • Are the parents of a child together

If you do not have one of these relationships, file for a peace order.

What about dating relationships?

If you and the alleged abuser…

have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year: file for a Protective Order.

have not lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year: file for a Peace Order.

How can I file for a protective or peace order?

  1. Complete the right form.

    For a protective order – Complete a Petition for Protective Order (CC-DC/DV 1).
    For a peace order – Complete a Petition for Peace Order (DC/PO 1).

  1. File it at the right location.

    For a protective order – File the petition with the clerk’s office of either a Circuit Court or the District Court.
    For a peace order – File the petition with the clerk’s office of the District Court.
    For either – If the court is closed, file the petition with the commissioner’s office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day. During court business hours, however, you must file with the court, not one of the commissioners.

How can a protective or peace order help me?

If you file for a protective or peace order, you can ask the judge for certain kinds of help:

Protective Order
In an Interim or Temporary Protective Order, the judge can order that the abuser:

  • Stop abusing you.
  • Stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, or the place where you may be staying, stay away from your child’s school, and from your family members’ homes.
  • Stay out of your house.
  • Leave the home where the two of you live, if you are married to the abuser, AND you were living with your abuser at the time of the abuse.
  • Leave the home if you are not married to the abuser, but were living with the abuser at the time of the abuse, AND your name is on the lease or deed for the house, OR you lived with the abuser for at least 90 days within the past year.
  • The judge can also give you temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser.

In a Final Protective Order, a judge can order any of the above, and can also:

  • Establish temporary visitation with children.
  • Award emergency family maintenance.
  • Award use and possession of jointly titled car.
  • Order counseling.
  • Order the abuser to surrender all firearms.
  • Order the abuser to pay filing fees and court costs.

Peace Order
In an Interim or Temporary Peace Order, the judge can order that the abuser:

  • Stop abusing you.
  • Stay away from you and to not try to contact you or harass you at your home, school, job, or the place where you may be staying.

In a Final Peace Order, a judge can order any of the above, and can also:

  • Order counseling.
  • Order mediation.
  • Order the abuser to pay filing fees and court costs.

How can I limit public access to court records about me in a protective or peace order case?
For Petitioners (the alleged victim)
See our brochure, "Can I keep the public from seeing information about me in a court case?"
For Respondents (the alleged abuser)
See our brochure, "Can I keep the public from seeing information about me in a peace or protective order case?"