What Protective Orders Can and Cannot Do in Maryland

Divorce or separation is difficult.

Maybe that’s an understatement.

It can be extremely difficult. With strong emotion comes strong reaction. It’s not uncommon to see physical altercations and cases involving domestic violence. A protective order can help protect you against an abusive spouse or partner (current or former).

It helps to have some understanding about what a protective order (also called a “restraining order”) can and cannot do for you.

What Protective Orders Can Do

A protective order can establish the existence (or alleged existence) that there’s some type of violence or abuse happening in a relationship. As such, a protective order can be used as evidence in divorce and family law cases involving child custody, visitation, support and related matters.

A protective order may be issued in cases involving an intimate or domestic relationship, and can apply to spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, siblings – essentially, anyone who lives together or is related by blood.

To get a protective order, you must show that a credible risk exists, which means proving that someone tried to cause you physical harm, sexual or otherwise, or evidence that this actually occurred. False imprisonment and criminal stalking can also meet this requirement.

What Protective Orders Cannot Do

Protective orders might help you feel a little more safe and secure, depending on the situation, but ultimately any protective order is a legal document. A judge may have signed it, but it’s still just a document. If you are in danger, removing yourself from the situation, if possible, and seeking protection in a shelter, may be the best bet.

What You Can Do

If you’re going through a divorce or separation, the underlying tension will already be high, whether or not there is abuse or violence in the relationship. For help getting a protective order (or defending yourself against one), seek the advice of a divorce and family law attorney.