Ex parte is just lawyer talk for "one party." This means you can go get your order yourself without notification to the abuser. You can get one 24 hours a day. If the court is closed, you may file at the Commissioner's Court of your county. Law enforcement can give you the location of the proper Commissioner's Court.
When filling out the paperwork, be as specific as possible about the abuse. To be granted a protective order there must have been actual physical harm, threats of physical harm or a sexual assault of any kind. The most common mistake I see is minimizing what happened. Don't spend a lot of time explaining what led up to the incident. Summarize. If you don't tell the court how you were injured or why you fear for your safety, you will not get your protective order no matter how many pages of detail you write.
The Ex Parte Order is good for 2 business days. You must return to the court before that time is up to get a Temporary Order.
Getting The Temporary Order
If the court is open when you first go to file, you can file directly for the Temporary Order rather than an Ex Parte Order. The process is the same. Concentrate your detail on the actual harm caused or the fear created.
At this stage, it is usually just you telling your story to the judge. Be clear and concise about what happened. The Court knows you are upset, so it is okay to be a little upset. But do not let your emotions get in the way of the ultimate goal -- getting the Order.
If the abuser is not present, the Sheriff will serve the person with the Temporary Order stating when the Final Order hearing will be held. While awaiting service, make sure you have a safety plan. Given the difficulties in locating the other party, service can take awhile. Temporary Orders are good for a week, but may be extended for 30 days (after January 1, 2010, they may be extended for up to six months).
Attending The Final Order Hearing
This is a very important step. It is highly recommended that you have an attorney for this stage of the proceedings. The abuser will be at this hearing. You will have to tell your story, present any evidence, and question any witnesses you may have. order. Your story must be clear, coherent and convincing. Once the judge has heard from both sides, the judge will make a determination. To receive a Final Protective Order, the judge must believe by "clear and convincing evidence" -- meaning it's is obvious -- that abuse occurred.
If you win, the abuser can be ordered to stay away from your home, your work, and other places you designate. The court will order no contact by the abuser, which includes phone, text message or email. The abuser also must surrender any firearms in the person's possession by Federal law.
The Final Order is good for one year. Any violations can result in criminal charges being brought against the abuser.
After the Final Order Hearing
Unfortunately, getting a protective order is not a magic piece of armor that will protect you. Make sure you have a safety plan. Keep a copy of the order with you at all times. If the abuser is ordered to stay away from your work, give a copy to your employer. If you work in another state from Maryland, register your order with that state. This is as simple as going to the court and asking them to register it for you. You may need a certified copy, but those easily obtained from the issuing court. Give a copy to your friends so they can help you. If there is a violation, call 9-1-1 immediately. Keep a log of any violations, if the police do not act immediately on the first violation. If the violations continue, contact the State's Attorney for your county to file charges.
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