As a family law practitioner I have represented a number of petitioners and respondents in protective order hearings throughout the state of Maryland. Unfortunately, the purpose and intent of a protective order is often misinterpreted and misused by the litigants. The purpose of the domestic violence statute as defined by Maryland case law is to protect and aid victims of domestic violence by providing a quick and effective remedy and to prevent further harm to the victim. It is not intended to produce pendente lite orders relating to custody, support, and marital property that are effective for the duration of the Protective Order. Oftentimes, Petitioners attempt to use this necessary and important statute to do just what it was not meant to do – obtain custody of a child in common with the respondent.
I recently represented a respondent in a Final Protective Order hearing , in which the petitioner used the staute to attept to gain custody of their chid. In that case the petitioner alleged an assault upon him by the respondent that resulted in their infant child being bounced off the bed, where she was laying at the time, and landing on the floor. The police were called to the residence three times over the course of less than 24 hours and no one was arrested or left the residence. Ironically, the respondent fled the state the next day with the assistance of a domestic violence program due to continuing abuse by the petitioner upon her. Nevertheless, the petitioner filed a Temporary Protective Order, which was granted and awarded him custody of the parties infant child. My client was already out of the state (with the child) and once she was served with the Order did appear for the Final Protective Order Hearing. Once the Petitioner put on his case, the evidence in my opinion, was abundantly clear that even in the light most favorable to the petitioner, that there had been at most a mutual scuffle which was instigated by the petitioner and that petitioner’s only motivation in filing the protective order was to obtain custody of the child. This is a complete misuse of the domestic violence statute, i.e. protective order statute. At the conclusion of the petitioner’s case I made a Motion to Dismiss the Petitioner’s Protective Order as he had not met his burden of proof establishing by clear and convincing evidence that abuse had occurred. The Court agreed that even in the light most favorable to the petitioner, he had not met his burden and dismissed the Protective Order without the need for my client to put on her case. In this particular situation, the Court was keenly aware of the purpose and intent of the domestic violence statute and did not grant the Final Order.
Cases such as the above with baseless allegations are frequently filed with the Court with mal intent, and at the initial stage the Temporary Orders are granted because at the Temporary Protective Order stage of the process often the respondent is not even present. It is not until the Final Hearing that the respondent even has an opportunity to be heard. If you are either a Petitioner or Respondent, you would likely benefit from the assistance and advice of experienced legal counsel. For more information on your particular situation you should speak with an experienced family law attorney.