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Maryland Family Law on Domestic Violence

Many of us may have a narrow definition of domestic violence as a physical altercation between spouses. However, domestic violence or "abuse" is defined more broadly by Maryland law as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between “family or household members”:

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

Under Maryland law, there is no requirement that the abused be married to the abuser. In fact, a domestic abuse victim can be a blood relative, a child, or even an adult who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his or her daily needs.

Family Laws on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence statutes in Maryland are highlighted in the chart below.

Code Sections

Family Law Articles §4–501 et seq.

Other Names

Domestic violence “abuse”

What is Prohibited?

An act that causes serious bodily harm;

An act that places a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;

Assault in any degree;

Rape or sexual offense under §§ 3–303 through 3–308 of the Criminal Law Article or attempted rape or sexual offense in any degree;

False imprisonment; or

Stalking under § 3–802 of the Criminal Law Article.

Statute of Limitations

3 years after the offense is committed.

Relationship Requirement

Current or former spouse;


Related by blood, marriage, or adoption;

Parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild, or co-resident for at least 90 days within 1 year before the filing of the petition;

Vulnerable adult; or

Individual who has a child in common.


Felony (Repeat Offenders) or misdemeanor (depending on the crime): probation, jail time, anger management classes, community service, fines, and restitution to the victim(s). Factors, such as prior offenses or history of domestic violence, help determine the severity of the punishment. Sentences may also include a restraining or protective order.

Types of Protective Orders Available

Protection Order;

Peace Order

Domestic Violence Resources

Maryland Courts Domestic Violence Information

Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence

Maryland Department of Human Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Maryland Domestic Violence Protections

In addition to criminal prosecution for domestic abuse, Maryland has additional legal remedies in the form of protection orders and peace orders. Which order is appropriate will depend on the relationship between the abuser and abuse victim. You can file a Petition for a Protection Order if you and the alleged abuser are current or former spouses, lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days in the past year, are related by blood, and other special circumstances.

If you have not lived together with the alleged abuser in an intimate relationship for 90 days in the past year, you can file a Petition for Peace Order. Peace Order petitions must be filed with the clerk’s office of the District Court, while Protective Orders can be filed with the District or Circuit Court.

Maryland Child Support Guidelines: Related Resources

Domestic violence is a serious matter and state laws can be confusing. If you would like legal assistance with a domestic abuse matter, you can contact a Maryland family law attorney. You can also visit FindLaw's sections on Harassment, Restraining Orders, and Filing a Domestic Violence Lawsuit for more articles and resources on this topic.

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