If a Protective Order is in place, a Court can modify or rescind (void) it at any time during the term that the Order is in effect upon a showing of “good cause”.
Under Maryland Law, a Court can issue a Final Protective Order for up to one year. Any requested modification can be with regard to the terms of the Order, or it can be to extend the length of time the Order will be in place. However, prior to the Court modifying or rescinding an order, notice must be given to all affected persons eligible for relief, as well as the Respondent, and a hearing must be held. In addition, while the Petition can only be filed up to the last day the Order is in effect, a hearing on the matter must be held within 30 days of the last day the Order is in effect, or else the Court loses jurisdiction over the matter, and you will lose the motion.
If you are the Petitioner, it is important that you apprise the Clerk if you are near the end of the term of an existing Order to avoid your motion getting denied due to untimeliness. If you are a Respondent, you also need to be aware if a hearing is being held outside the 30-day period prescribed by the statute.
Courts have the ability to adapt an Order when there are changing circumstances. For example, the affected person may need an extension of the order for temporary possession and use of the family home. He or she may need a modification of any temporary visitation order related to custody of a minor child. There may need to change the award of emergency family maintenance, change provisions of the use and possession of a jointly owned vehicle, or even address arrangements regarding pets. The Petitioner may also have reason to ask the Court to extend the length of time of the protection, or in the alternative, may ask that the Order be rescinded.
A Petitioner can ask the Court to extend the term of a Protective Order for an additional six-month period. However, in addition to giving notice to all parties and having a hearing in open court, the person asking for the extension of the order must show “good cause”.
What does “good cause” mean? In Maryland, neither the Legislature nor the courts have instituted a specific definition for “good cause”. However, Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as “substantial reason, one that affords a legal excuse; a legally sufficient ground or reason.” Any argument for good cause would need to include a rationale that the conduct which was the basis for the original order may well begin again if the order was no longer in effect. The person asking for the extension does not need to prove more harm, just the reasonable concern that there could be harm without continuing protection by the Order.
If the Respondent commits a prohibited act during the term of the order, persons being protected can ask the Court to extend the Order for up to two years. To win this motion, Petitioner must present evidence during a hearing that the Respondent committed one of the acts of violence listed in the law.
The Court will take very seriously any action which it deems to be in violation of a Protective Order and, if proven, the Court is likely to impose further sanctions on a Respondent who has been found guilty of violating an existing Order. In addition to civil sanctions, that person could also face criminal charges.