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Examining the Maryland Approach to Domestic Violence


Domestic violence is particularly troublesome crime due to the relationship between the abuser and the victim. An abusive act only qualifies as domestic violence under Maryland law if there is a familial relationship or similarly close ties.

In order to understand the boundaries of domestic violence in Maryland, it will be helpful to review the abusive acts that qualify as domestic violence, family and household members eligible for protection, and protective orders that put an end to the abuse.

What is the Definition of Domestic Violence in Maryland?

Maryland Code of Family Law Section 4-501 establishes the definition of domestic violence. Under this section, the term domestic violence includes the following:

  • Any act that results in severe physical harm to the victim;
  • Any act that places the victim in reasonable fear of severe physical harm;
  • Assault, rape, or sexual offense in any degree;
  • Rape or sexual offense in any degree;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Stalking, as defined under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 3-802;
  • Revenge porn, as defined under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 3-809
  • Abuse of a child, as defined under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-701; and
  • Abuse of a vulnerable adult, as defined under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 14-101.

That being said, domestic violence only applies when there is a preexisting relationship between the abuser and the victim.

Who Qualifies for Domestic Violence Protection in Maryland?

Under Section 4-501, domestic violence protections only extend to certain family and household members in Maryland. Specifically, the domestic violence victim must be any person who is/was:

  • Currently married to the abuser;
  • Formerly married to the abuser;
  • Living in the same residence as the abuser;
  • Related to the abuser by adoption, blood, or marriage;
  • Engaged in a sexual relationship with the abuser in the past 12 months;
  • Parent to a common child with the abuser; or
  • A vulnerable adult.

How Can Someone Stop Domestic Violence in Maryland?

When an abuser commits domestic violence against any of the individuals listed above, the Maryland courts can leverage protective orders to stop the abuse. These orders are only available in domestic violence situations, where the abuser and victim share a close relationship.

In general terms, protective orders allow the Maryland courts to order the abuser to:

  • Stop abusing the victim;
  • Cease contacting the victim in any context;
  • Move out of a shared domicile or residence; and
  • Give up custody rights for any common children.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you need legal help with domestic violence in Maryland, it can be markedly worthwhile to contact a trusted domestic violence attorney. The Bel Air domestic violence attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including domestic violence. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.

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