This month brings to a close domestic violence awareness month. There are a number of programs available to help victims of domestic violence, including a new Family Justice Center in Prince George's County. In Maryland, a victim of abuse can obtain a protective order 24 hours a day from the District Court Commissioner. This would be an interim order, which would require a hearing for a temporary order shortly thereafter. To obtain a final protective order, the petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one or more specified acts of violence were committed. The Maryland Judiciary has some basic information about peace orders and protective orders here.
It is very important to have all the witnesses and evidence, like photographs, available for the hearing. Having an attorney at the final protective order hearing can help to ensure that the evidence is admissible, in other words, that the judge can properly consider it. This can be tricky to do without an attorney. If you are the Respondent, who is accused of committing an act of violence, it is also vital to have representation. There is not much time to prepare, and the consequences can be quite severe as it can impact custody, financial support and even who will be permitted to live in the home.
For many victims of domestic violence, obtaining a final protective is really the first step in the process, which may also involve filing for divorce, custody or financial support depending on the circumstances.