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Bill may provide help to unmarried victims of domestic violence

When someone is caught in an abusive relationship, they may suffer both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, domestic violence is all too common, and the victims of it may feel as if there is no one for them to turn to. However, under Maryland law, it may be possible to get a protective order against the abusive spouse.

A protective order can help ensure that an abusive person is kept away from the victim. However, state law only allows protective orders in very specific instances. Unless the abuser is a spouse, a relative, someone the victim is living with or someone they share a child with, it is currently not possible to obtain a protective order.

Instead, victims of abuse where the abuser does not fit any of the aforementioned categories must procure a peace order, which is less effective. Nonetheless, this may change soon. Under a bill proposed by Maryland Sen. Christopher Shank, the eligibility for protective orders would be substantially expanded. That is, it would include anyone who is in an intimate relationship but not married.

That could prove to be of tremendous assistance to victims of dating violence. According to the House of Ruth, a domestic violence center in Maryland, a one-year protective order would be a stronger safeguard than a six-month peace order. However, the bill has faced some opposition with critics claiming that the new eligibility requirement would be confusing. As the bill now makes its way through the Maryland legislative system, those who are the victim of domestic abuse may well consider consulting with a lawyer over the possibility of obtaining either a protective order or a peace order.

Source: Herald-Mail, "Bill would widen eligibility for protective orders," Andrew Schotz, Feb. 15, 2012

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