Protective Orders in the State of Maryland arise in a civil proceeding in which the Petitioner must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that domestic abuse occurred against him or her. Often, the person who caused the abuse is ordered to stay away from the person who was harmed, as well as his or her home, workplace, and school, if applicable.

Initially, a Temporary Protective Order is issued by the swearing of a petition by a Petitioner. The Respondent is normally not present and if an Order is issued, it is for a brief period until a hearing can be held and the Respondent has the opportunity to tell his or her side of the story.

But is using this hearing to tell your side of the story always a good idea?

When a hearing is held on whether a Court should issue a Final Protective Order, testimony is given under oath and a record is made. The findings and the record are public information. Any person who is willing to pay a fee can obtain a recording of the hearing or can even have a transcript made.

The best outcome is a dismissal of a Protective Order. For example, two people may file Petitions against one another in the heat of the moment and, when the date of the final hearing has arrived, may have decided that mutual orders are not necessary and may mutually dismiss the cases. This benefits both parties because neither one will have an Order against them and both cases can be shielded from public view. In addition, the Petitioner sometimes fails to show up for the Final Protective Order hearing which will cause the Court to dismiss the Protective Order.

When a Respondent demands a hearing, he opens himself to a detailed explanation in open court of what the Petitioner claims he or she did, and the potential of the Respondent admitting to incriminating behavior that can be used in other civil or even criminal cases in addition to the Protective Order case. In the alternative, when a Respondent can prove that the Petition has no merit, he or she may want to have a hearing to clear his or her good name. Certainly, if a judge hears evidence from both parties and denies the Final Order, that outcome is helpful to a Respondent who can then have the case shielded from public inspection.

Moreover, a hearing in a Protective Order case can expose the person to harmful testimonial evidence. To avoid this unpleasant result, Respondents sometimes will simply consent to a Final Order without a hearing. The Court will then enter an order for the Respondent to stay away from the Petitioner.

The disadvantage of consenting to an Order: the Respondent will have an Order entered against him or her. The benefit: no finding by the Court and no record of wrongdoing by Respondent. This will protect a person who may have committed bad acts from having a record of wrongdoing that could be used in other venues. This result does not insulate the person from further civil or even criminal litigation. But a consent order eliminates the risk that unfavorable and damaging testimonial evidence would go public at the hearing. And a consented to protective order qualifies for shielding in one year. A court battle resulting in a loss can never be shielded.

Since a protective order is issued to end domestic violence, the order can have negative consequences on your life. For example, employers will sometimes reject applicants or even fire someone just because a Court has entered an Order against them. An Order moreover will appear as negative information in a background check. In some cases, it may be more debilitating than even some criminal records. In addition to affecting one’s employment, having a Protective Order issued against a person could also affect his or her ability to participate in volunteer activities, to engage in one’s children’s school activities, and even affect one’s standing in the community.

Domestic violence is not tolerated in Maryland. A Protective Order is one of the tools available to victims of domestic violence to confront abusers in open court and to protect them from further abuse.

Anyone who is served with a Protective Order must understand that there are numerous options in how to handle the matter. It is vital to recognize that the outcome of a Protective Order hearing will do more than affect your access to the person you are ordered to stay away from, it can also have numerous deleterious consequences to your ability to work, go to school, be a volunteer and even enjoy your good name. Proper handling of these kinds of cases can mitigate and sometimes even eliminate unfavorable repercussions.