In family law matters, it is not uncommon for one party to file for a protective order against their spouse or co-parent. Of course, nobody should ever file for a protective order unless there is a true need for protection. However, when one party acts in an abusive manner towards their spouse, co-parent or child, it may be necessary to file for a protective order. We recently published an article on grounds for protective orders which can be found here.
When there is an ongoing divorce or custody action, those cases are always heard in the Circuit Court for the county where one or both parties reside. However, protective orders are often filed in the District Court of the county where the petitioner resides. Each county has a Circuit Court and District Court, which are separate Courts that hear different types of cases.
Many times, one party will file for a protective order against another party while both parties have a separate divorce or custody action pending. If the divorce or custody action is pending in the Circuit Court but the protective order action is filed in the District Court, this can cause a problem as two different Courts will be deciding issues pertaining to the same parties. Usually, it is best for the Circuit Court to hear the protective order action if there is also a divorce or custody action pending at the same time.
Fortunately, the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure allow for this to happen. Maryland Rule 3-326 (c)(1)(A) provides that “after entering a temporary protective order, the District Court … may transfer the action to a circuit court for the final protective order hearing if, after inquiry, the District Court finds that (i) there is a pending action in the circuit court involving one or more of the parties in which there is an existing order or request for relief similar to that being sought in the District Court and (ii) in the interests of justice, the action should be heard in the circuit court.” Subsection (B) further provides that in determining whether the protective order action should be transferred, the District Court should consider the “pendency of other actions involving the parties or children of the parties in one of the courts” and the “efficient operation of the courts.” Usually, it is more judicially efficient for the Circuit Court to hear the protective order action along with the divorce or custody action than it is to have two separate Courts (the District Court and Circuit Court) deciding related issues.
When deciding whether or not to transfer a protective order action to the Circuit Court, there are a number of legal and strategic considerations that must be made. Robert Greenberg, Esq. and the law firm of Greenberg Legal Group LLC have handled numerous protective order, divorce and custody actions. Our firm is located in Annapolis, Maryland and practices in Courts throughout the State of Maryland. Please contact our office at (410) 650 – 4242 for further assistance.