New Maryland Law Helps Victims of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a two way street of co-dependency which boils down to control.  Abusers are trying to control their victim through a variety of manipulative tactics; constant put downs, undermining their abilities, ultimatums, forcing compliance with threats, alienating victims from their support circles, and sometimes even turning the couple’s children against the victim.  Domestic violence often starts with emotional abuse and leaves victims feeling helpless and out of control.

 

In addition to the emotional and physical scars, domestic violence victims are manipulated to believe that they cannot escape their situation.  Without feeling empowered or in control of their own lives, victims of domestic violence are afraid to leave their abusers.  Many laws have been put in place to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to leave their abusers.

There are three types of Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPOs); interim, temporary and final. You can file for a DVPO in any district or circuit court in Maryland.  If the clerk’s office is open, you would file with the clerk.  If the clerk’s office is closed, you would file an Interim DVPO with a District Court commissioner.

Under a DVPO the defendant cannot abuse, threaten, contact, or harass anyone in the order, which may include the victim or the victim’s children, family, or friends.  They have to stay away from your children, your workplace or wherever you are staying.  Any DVPO can order the abuser to moveout of the home and can grant you use and possession of the family home under certain conditions, can give you temporary possession of any pet, and give you temporary custody of your children (if the child was there when the abuse happened and if child abuse is suspected as well).  A temporary order the defendant has to surrender any firearms.   A final order can do even more – set up visitation with the children’s best interest in mind, order the abuser to pay for child support and emergency maintenance, use and possession of family vehicle, both you and abuser go to domestic violence counseling, and order the abuser to pay for court costs.  A judge can order any or all of these depending on the facts of your case.

In addition to DVPOs this year the Maryland General Assembly passed two new protection laws to victims of domestic violence that become effective October 1, 2012.

First, victims who are forced to quit their jobs to escape the threat of domestic violence will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits which are normally only available to terminated employees.  It takes away the hurdle of losing their means of supporting themselves in the short term.

The second law requires judges to report whether or not defendants are found to have had a “domestically-related relationship” with their victims. If they have, a notation will be added to their criminal record that indicates they have committed a domestic violence-related crime. That will be used by law enforcement to monitor domestic violence offenders.

It’s up to judges to determine the extent of the relationship and mark it in criminal records at the time of sentencing, allowing other law enforcement to access information to quickly distinguish whether a crime is domestic violence-related.

About Maryland Family and Real Estate Law
General information and commentary on child custody, support, divorce, separation, visitation, real estate, landlord/tenant and loss mitigation

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