Do I need a lawyer? Can you recommend a good lawyer?

Before I file my case or have a hearing, can I talk to the Judge or Master?

Will my children talk to the Judge or Master?

Do I have to come to all of the court events? I will miss work.

When will I receive a Court Order? I need child support now.

What if it is an emergency?

My friend said...

At the scheduling conference, mediation was ordered. What happens in mediation?

What if I cannot afford mediation or any other court-ordered service?

I am not ready for trial – can I get a postponement?

What is FLOW? Family Law Orientation Workshop

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Do I need a lawyer? Can you recommend a good lawyer?

The court does not require that you have an attorney. There are many cases in which all issues are uncontested and many people are able to represent themselves in court. There are state forms on the Maryland Judiciary's Website  by which self-represented people can use to file for divorce, custody, etc. However, when you would benefit from legal advice, especially if custody or property are in dispute.

Court personnel cannot recommend attorneys. You may call the Lawyer Referral Service operated by the Anne Arundel County Bar Association for a referral at: 410-280-6961.

If you are representing yourself and are seeking legal assistance, you may use the services of the court's Family Law Self-Help Center.  Click here for program location and hours.

Before I file my case or have a hearing, can I talk to the Judge or Master?

No. Anything the court considers must be in writing and part of the court file, with a copy sent to the other party.

Will my children talk to the Judge or Master in Court?

Probably not. Coming to court is very intimidating, even for adults. So, the Court does not like to put children in the position of having to talk to a Judge or testify in court. In limited circumstances, the Judge may talk to a child privately or allow a child to testify in Court.

In certain cases, a Judge may appoint an attorney for a child. Sometimes information about children is presented to the Court either within the contents of a custody evaluation or during expert testimony from other adults.

Do I have to come to all of the court events? I will miss work.

Yes. Unless you receive permission from the court to be excused, you must attend every scheduled court event (including the parent education class - FLOW and mediation). In very rare circumstances, you may be allowed to participate by phone at certain court events. Prior permission must be obtained from the court before you will be excused from a court event or appear by phone.

When will I receive a Court Order? I need child support now.

Depending on what type of case you file, you may have more than one hearing or other court ordered events. Typically, the first event is a scheduling conference. This conference will focus on scheduling the deadlines and hearings in your case and ordering services, but it is not a hearing that results in a support order. In a new case, it will usually be several months after your scheduling conference before there is a merits hearing in your case. In some cases, you may be able to request a pendente lite, or temporary, order. In every jurisdiction, the courts try to process cases as quickly as possible. However, the exact time line from scheduling conference, to temporary hearing, to settlement conference, to final hearing, may vary. Statewide, the courts aim to have every case closed within one year from the date filed. Cases can be closed before the one-year mark.

What if it is an emergency?

This court defines an emergency as the risk of "imminent harm." The court will decide the criteria to determine what type of situation will qualify as an emergency. Typically, visitation or support issues are not considered emergencies. Usually, the court's criteria is listed on their website.

If there has been any domestic violence, different guidelines and forms apply.  The YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, in Arnold, MD offers services to victims of domestic violence. They can be reached at: 410-626-7800.

Call the police, if you have a true emergency (911). Call Child Protective Services at the Department of Social Services to report allegations of child neglect and/or abuse: 410-421-8400.

My friend said...

Although your situation may seem similar to someone else's, each case has unique elements that may affect the procedure or outcome of the case.

At the scheduling conference, mediation was ordered. Can you explain what happens in mediation?

You, the other parent and the mediator will discuss your custody and/or visitation issues. If property mediation was ordered, that will be addressed at your mediation session. The mediator will help you and the other parent communicate. The mediator will not offer you legal advice or tell you what to do. The process is intended to help you and the other parent reach a parenting agreement, or at least begin the discussion of how you will be able to co-parent. 

If you reach an agreement, the mediator will draft an agreement. If the agreement concerns custody and/or visitation, it may be called a Parenting Plan. You will have 10 business days to notify the mediator if you object to the agreement. If you do not timely object to the agreement, it will be forwarded to the court and may be incorporated into an order.

What if I cannot afford mediation or any other court-ordered service?

You may apply for a family law services fee waiver. Call (410) 222-1153 for more information.

I am not ready for trial – can I get a postponement?

The Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County has a strict postponement policy. You will need to contact the family law postponement coordinator at: 410-222-1136.

What is FLOW (Family Law Orientation Workshop)?

This court offers an on-line 6 hour workshop to help you and the other party learn how to "co-parent" your children during this time of great change. The course will also help you prepare for custody and/or visitation mediation. Click here fore more information on Parent Education.