You are eligible for a Maryland  Protective Order if you and the alleged abuser:

  • Are current or former spouses
  • Have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year
  • Are related by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Are in a parent-child, or stepparent-stepchild relationship and have resided together for at least 90 days during the past year
  • Are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship
  • Are the parents of a child together
  • Have had a sexual relationship within 1 year before the filing of the petition

For purposes of a Domestic Violence “Protective Order,” Maryland law defines “Abuse” as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts:

  • Assault
  • An act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
  • An act that causes serious bodily harm
  • Rape or sexual offense
  • Attempted rape or sexual offense
  • Stalking
  • False imprisonment, such as interference with freedom, physically keeping you from leaving your home or kidnapping you.

We’ll be posting a series of articles about domestic violence cases in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

In Maryland you can file for a “Protective Order” in any District Court or Circuit Court for protection from abuse from someone who is a member of your family or household.

When the abuser is someone who is not a member of your family or household, you can file for a “Peace Order.” A Peace Order can only be obtained in District Court.

“How much will my custody case cost?” is a question I hear over and over.  I don’t know is the answer.  If things go well, if both parents and attorneys are reasonable, and you are lucky, the cost may be below my initial retainer of $5,000 and you will get a refund. If you get into litigation, your fees could be two or three times that, or even more.  The sky really is the limit.

Witness the Toronto case known as M. and F.  The mother alleged that the father was not entited to overnight visits with their six year old son because he had been violent toward her.  That made him, according to the mother, unsafe to be alone with the child. The mother owns a successful insurance brokerage.  The father is a lawyer.

The trial lasted 34 days. Then the case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal.  In the end, the father won.  The court ordered the mother to pay $540,000 of the father’s legal fees.  The total amount of legal fees spent by the two parents was over two million dollars.

Effective October 1, 2014, Maryland will become the last state in the nation to relax the burden of proof required for victims of domestic violence to obtain a final court order for protection from domestic violence. Maryland law for many years has required that in order to grant a final protective order a judge must find by “clear and convincing evidence” that the respondent has committed one of several prohibited acts against the petitioner. As of October 1st, Maryland will finally join other states that utilize the “preponderance of the evidence” standard in determining whether to grant or extend a final protective order (Fam. Law Art., Sec. 4-506 (c)(1)(ii)).

A “burden of proof” is the duty or obligation a person has in a court proceeding to prove their case. There are several different burdens of proof that are used in various court proceedings.

The most well-known standard is guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal cases. This standard essentially means that if the jury has no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt or if their only doubts are unreasonable, then the burden has been met.

The “preponderance of the evidence” standard, applicable in most civil cases, is the lowest burden of proof one must meet, requiring just enough evidence to establish that a fact is more likely true than not true, or more probable than not (in other words greater than 50%, however slightly over 50% that might be, or enough to “tip the balance”).

The current “clear and convincing” standard lies somewhere between the above two, requiring less than would be required for “beyond a reasonable doubt” and more than “preponderance of the evidence,” although there must be a high probability that something is true in order to meet this burden.

As examples, in situations of ongoing manipulation/control by one party over the other and threats may not be construed as a danger to someone’s safety under the clear and convincing evidence standard, but could be under the preponderance of the evidence standard, allowing a Judge to more easily find that such has caused the victim reasonable fear of serious imminent bodily harm, which is one of the enumerated prohibited acts in the Maryland domestic violence statute.

Remedies available when a final protective order is granted include that an abuser cease all contact with the victim, to stay out of his or her house, temporarily relinquish custody of any children the two share and surrender all firearms.

Guest post by Evelyn Crowther

In the strictest sense, addiction refers to physical dependence on a substance that provokes unpleasant or dangerous symptoms upon its withdrawal, such as certain drugs or alcohol. However, addiction is a term that’s also used in a wider sense to mean the compulsive repetition of certain behaviors that cause disruption to life, and over which the participant has little control. Gambling, sex and online gaming are examples of the kinds of behaviors that can easily spin out of control, resulting in personality changes that threaten the integrity of a relationship.

Divorce and Addiction

Relationships fall apart and couples divorce for a multitude of reasons and it’s rarely an easy process. For the couple dealing with addiction, it can be as traumatic as divorce involving infidelity, because the addiction itself is like a third person in the relationship.

Admitting the Truth

Addicts are liars, and deceive nobody more effectively than themselves. Addiction creates a huge amount of shame for the person ensnared by the behavioral or substance dependency, often leading to elaborate attempts to cover up their behavior.

Partners of addicts often notice troubling personality changes as their loved one becomes increasingly defensive or angry. There are often worrying financial issues that come to light, and in some cases – also the threat of violence.

Struggling alone with confusing and contradictory behavior can create anxiety and depression for someone living with an addict, as they attempt to understand what is happening around them.

One of the most courageous things either party can do is to break the silence and admit that an area of life is out of control. Admitting helplessness is the first of the steps in the famous 12 Step Program, but isn’t necessarily limited to alcohol addiction. Surrender can be seen as a principle that applies to all areas where we have lost control of our lives.

Support of Others

It’s usually by taking that first difficult step of admitting what is happening, that people seek and find a connection with others who are also struggling, or on the road to recovery. There is so much help and support out there – often locally, and discovering that we are not alone makes disclosure a risk well worth taking.

The lawyers at TGC paused in our efforts to prosecute or defend the adultery, abandonment and cruelty of others in order to celebrate at our annual holiday lunch at Food Wine & Co.

The table talk turned to food and somebody mentioned leg of lamb.

It reminded me of the classic short story by Roald Dahl, “Lamb to the Slaughter”.  If you haven’t read it, click on the link.

I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say, don’t turn your back on a spouse with a frozen leg of lamb in her hands, when announcing that you want a divorce.

Former football star Chad Johnson is in the news for refusing to participate in the divorce filed in Florida by his wife, Evelyn Lozada.  He won’t sign divorce papers or appear in court.

Instead he is trying to win back his wife.  Since his arrest for domestic violence in August, Johnson has apologized publicly, tweeted his affection for his wife and had her face tattooed on his leg.

This sounds pretty heroic, but it may be more like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.  When a spouse has taken the drastic action of filing a lawsuit for divorce, it is usually too late to change her mind.  Lozada doesn’t appear to be interested in reconciling.  And the court doesn’t need Johnson to be grant a divorce.

We all have the need for love and the need to control our surroundings.  Johnson needs to accept the premise that he cannot control this situation.  This takes time.  Lozada and her lawyers might be rushing him.

In November of last year, Frederick Wood, 29, of Maryland, was involved in a domestic altercation with his 27 year old girlfriend.  The police report noted extensive injuries to her.

Wood was charged with second-degree assault, a misdemeanor.  His case came to trial on March 10 before Judge Darrell Russell, Jr., District Court Judge for Baltimore County, Maryland.

When the case was called, Wood’s attorney asked that the trial be taken off the calendar because the couple intended to marry.  The wife could then invoke spousal privilege which would prevent her from testifying against her husband and the case would be dismissed.

The judge refused but he did declare a break in the trial that day so they could obtain a marriage license.  When they returned to the courtroom with the license, Judge Russell married them in his chambers.  He found the defendant not guilty.

Judge Russell has been reassigned to chambers by the Chief Judge, and the House of Ruth said it  intends to make a complaint to the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities.

Additional Coverage:

Maryland Daily Record
11 News I-Team

My state provides protection for battered spouses through a petition for a domestic violence order. If a husband threatens or harms a wife, for example, she can fill out a short petition at the courthouse, appear immediately before a judge, and obtain an order putting the husband out of the house for a few days. The sheriff serves the order that same day and you are given enough time to pack a toothbrush.

The court then sets a full hearing at which both parties can appear and testify as to what really happened. The judge can dismiss the protective order or continue it for up to a year. Divorce lawyers call these “Kickout Orders”.

Domestic violence can never be countenanced, but you can see how Kickout Orders can be
subject to abuse themselves. I’ve had all sorts of cases including grabbing for car keys, computers, mail, letting dogs outside a fenced yard, pouring weed killer on shrubs, bumping noses, muttering under one’s breath, and assorted pushes and shoves.

So be smart. Keep your hands in your pockets. Walk away from the fight. Remember, shout at your spouse, lose your house.