The first step is to proceed to your local District or Circuit Court to file a Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence for yourself and/or on behalf of any Minor Child(ren) or Vulnerable Adult. If the Court is closed, you may proceed to your local Commissioner's office. Where to file will depend on what your ultimate goals are within the greater context of your particular situation as there are both advantages and disadvantages to filing in one location versus another.
Make sure the Petition for Protection is complete
It is advisable before going to the Court or the Commissioner's office to print the Petition forms from the Maryland Judiciary website - see link below - and familiarize yourself with the forms, including the relief you are seeking. Make sure you check the boxes that best describe the abuse you and/or the child(ren) have suffered, provide the details of abuse, including any and all past injuries in the applicable sections. Also, make sure that you check and complete the sections related to what you want the Court to do.
Include specific acts of Abuse
The Petition should include specific acts of Abuse, which are defined by Maryland Law as acts that have caused you and/or your minor child(ren) serious bodily harm, placing either in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, assault or battery, rape or sexual offense, or stalking; and in the case of a child, acts that have caused or are likely to cause substantial mental or physical injury.
Attend Temporary Protective Order hearing
After completing the Petition, you will ultimately appear before a Judge at a Temporary Protective Order hearing. At this hearing, you will need to present evidence sufficient to support reasonable grounds that Abuse has occurred. Make sure that you make the Judge aware of any firearms present in the household, in the possession of the Respondent, and/or used in any of the incidences of abuse. In most cases, the Judge will ask you questions about what happened to determine whether or not the Court can enter an Order. If there is sufficient evidence, the Judge will issue a Temporary Protective Order and order you and the Respondent to return for a Final Protective Order hearing in about one week. If there is Child Abuse, you may request that the Court refer the matter to Child Protective Services ("CPS") for an independent investigation. CPS will then prepare a report of any findings of abuse to the Court by the next court date.
Attend Final Protective Order hearing
At this hearing, you will need to present clear and convincing evidence that abuse has occurred and that a protective order should be issued in order to avoid future abuse. You may do so by witness testimony, admissible documents, photos and/or recordings.
Address length of Order / Custody / Family Use Property / Financial Support
If there is sufficient evidence to enter a Final Protective Order, the Court may award an Order up to one year. Be prepared to argue why the Court should order the maximum time allowed. You should be prepared to present evidence of what custody arrangement best suits the children, whether the Court should award use and possession of a family vehicle and/or home to you, as well as provide financial support, referred to as Emergency Family Maintenance. In so doing, you will need to have copies of your periodic expenses and complete a financial statement form and file it with your Petition.