Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I need a lawyer? Can you recommend afont- 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
- Do you have a children’s program?
1. Do I need a lawyer? Can you recommend a good lawyer?
Family Law Cases are “Civil” cases and the court does not require that you have an attorney, NOR can the court “appoint” an attorney to represent you in a civil matter. 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 www.mdcourts.gov by which self-represented people can use to file for divorce, custody, etc. However, if you have a contested case you may benefit from legal advice, especially if custody or property are in dispute. Court personnel cannot recommend attorneys. You may call the Worcester County Bar Association for a referral. If you are representing yourself and are seeking legal assistance, you may use the services of the court's Family Law Self-Help Center. Walk-in service is available in Room 101 at the Circuit Court. Walk-in hours are Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be seen on a first come, first serve basis. Sign up begins at 8:00 a.m.
3. Will my children talk to the Judge or Master?
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.
4. 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 co-parenting education class 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 be allowed to appear by phone.
5. 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.
6. 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. If you believe your case should be handled as a domestic violence case, you may contact the Life Crisis Center at 410-749-Help. 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: 410-677-6800
8. 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 forward the terms of that agreement to your attorneys for review. If the agreement concerns custody and/or visitation, it may be called a Parenting Plan. Agreements reached in mediation ARE NOT court orders until all parties and counsel sign said agreement and file it with court asking that the court incorporate that agreement into an order.
11. What is Co-Parenting Education?
This court offers a 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. Two 3 hour sessions are held on the 3rd and 4th Wednesdays of the month from 6:00 – 9:00 pm at the Worcester County Health Department located on Public Landing Road in Snow Hill. If ordered, attendance is mandatory.
12. Do you have a children’s program?
This court offers a program called KidShare to help children whose families are experiencing change due to divorce, separation and custody issues. This 3 hour program is offered the 4th Wednesday of every other month at the Worcester County Health Department in Snow Hill. Parties with children ages 6-12 may be ordered to bring their children to this free program. If ordered, attendance is mandatory.