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Maryland Protective Orders – Interim vs. Temporary vs. Final

In the wake of the recent legislation signed by Governor O’Malley mandating Judges to order the surrender firearms as part of a final protective order, and authorizing Judges to order the surrender of firearms as part of a temporary protective order, it is helpful to differentiate between the two, and in addition explain the interim protective order.

An Interim Protective Order allows for domestic violence protective orders to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. District Court Commissioners are available at any hour of the day and can issue an interim protective order if there is “reasonable grounds to believe” that the alleged abuser (the Respondent) has abused the person eligible for relief. This protective order lasts for up to 48 hours after the courts re-open, after which the individual seeking protection (the Petitioner) must seek a temporary protective order to extend the interim order.

A Temporary Protective Order is only issued after a hearing before a Judge. If the Judge finds that there is reasonable grounds to believe that the person eligible for relief has been abused then he or she may enter a temporary protective order, which will last for up to 7 days. However, the Judge may extend the temporary order for up to 30 days if good cause exists, prior to the final hearing (effective October 1, 2009 the temporary order may be extended for up to 6 months to effectuate service or for good cause). The Judge is authorized to order the alleged abuser to surrender all firearms when issuing a temporary protective order. Additionally, the Judge can order the alleged abuser to refrain from abuse or threats of abuse of the person eligible for relief, order the alleged abuse to refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing the person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to refrain from entering the residence of the person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to vacate the home immediately and award temporary use and possession of the home to the person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to remain away from the place of employment, school, or temporary residence of the person eligible for relief or home of other family members; order the alleged abuser 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; and award temporary custody of a minor child of the person eligible for relief. The temporary protective order additionally states the date of the final protective order hearing, which is generally set 7 days after the temporary protective order has been entered.

A Final Protective Order is issued after a hearing in which the alleged abuser has the opportunity to appear before the court, if the Judge finds clear and convincing evidence that the abuse has occurred, or if the alleged abuser consent to the entry of the protective order. A final protective order can be effective for up to 12 months, and, effective October 1, 2009, under certain circumstances for 2 years or permanently. The Judge is mandated to order the alleged abuser to surrender all firearms when issuing a final protective order. Additionally, the Judge can order the alleged abuser to refrain from abusing or threatening to abuse any person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to refrain from contacting, attempting to contact, or harassing any person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to refrain from entering the residence of any person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to vacate the home immediately and award temporary use and possession of the home to the person eligible for relief; order the alleged abuser to remain away from the place of employment, school, or temporary residence of a person eligible for relief or home of other family members; order the alleged abuser 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; award temporary custody of a minor child of the alleged abuser and a person eligible for relief; establish temporary visitation with a minor child of the alleged abuser 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; award emergency family maintenance as necessary to support any person eligible for relief to whom the alleged abuser has a duty of support; award temporary use and possession of a vehicle jointly owned by the alleged abuser 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 alleged abuser or a person eligible for relief; direct the alleged abuser or any or all of the persons eligible for relief to participate in professionally supervised counseling or a domestic violence program; and order the alleged abuser to pay filing fees and costs of the proceeding.

The entry of a Protective Order in Maryland can have many legal benefits for the Petitioner and many legal consequences for the Respondent, particularly if the parties are going through a divorce and/or custody case. With the passage of the amended legislation it is imperative that both Petitioners and Respondents know exactly what the entry of a final protective order means to them. Not knowing could result in many additional legal issues such as, criminal charges, civil and/or criminal contempt proceedings, and the basis for a ground for divorce, just to name a few.