Frequently Asked Questions - Civil Family
What is a Master of Domestic Relations?
A Master is a person appointed by the Court to hear specific types of cases. The Master has the power to regulate all proceedings in the hearing, rule upon the admissibility of evidence, examine witnesses, and recommend findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Court. They may also recommend contempt proceedings or other sanctions to the Court. The Master shall prepare written recommendations to the Court, which shall include a brief statement of the Master's findings and shall be accompanied by a proposed order. Each party will be notified of the Master's recommendations, either on the record at the end of the hearing or by service of the written recommendations within 10 days after the conclusion of the hearing or on matters referred to the Master by agreement of the parties, within 30 days after conclusion of the hearing. The Court will not enter an order of judgment based upon the Master's recommendations unless no exceptions to the recommendations are filed and the time for filing exceptions has expired or if exceptions are filed, not until after the court rules on those exceptions.
What do I do if I don't agree with the Master's Recommendation?
Within 10 days after recommendations are placed on the record or served pursuant to Maryland Rule 9-208(e), a party may file exceptions to the Master's recommendation with the Clerk. Exceptions shall be in writing and shall describe the asserted error with particular detail. At the time the exceptions are filed, the party filing the objection shall order a transcript of as much of the testimony as necessary to rule on the exceptions and otherwise comply with Maryland Rule 9-208.
How do I obtain Judicial Review of an Administrative Agency decision?
The rules for filing for Judicial Review can be found beginning with Maryland Rule 7-201. There are no forms to file the Petition. The Petition must be filed timely (generally within 30 days - See Maryland Rule 7-203). Advance filing fees must be paid at the time of filing, unless the case is an appeal from the State Workers' Compensation Commission or an appeal, by an individual claiming benefits, from a decision of the Board of Appeals of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation or the petitioner has had the fees waived. The court may waive, or put aside, the filing fee for people who are eligible for a waiver.
For additional information, try visiting the Peoples-Law Library.
How do I correct the name on a Birth Certificate? How do I obtain a change of name?
Generally, a court order is necessary to change birth certificates and other types of public documents. However, if the child is less than one year old, you may be able to change the name once, without obtaining a court order. There are other instances when a court order is not necessary. The Department of Vital Statistics will only agree to correct the record if it is satisfied that the documents submitted prove the person's name. Read the law at: COMAR 10.03.01.02.MD Health - General 4-214(c).
To petition the court for a court order to correct a Birth Certificate or obtain a Change of Name, you may be able to use one of the family law forms for Name Change, located at: http://mdcourts.gov/family/formsindex.html or prepare a Writ of Mandamus. There are no forms for Writ of Mandamus.
Name Change - Maryland Rule 15-907
Rules regarding Writ of Mandamus - see Maryland Rule 7-401-403 and Maryland Rule 15-701
More information may also be available on the People's Law Library website.
How do I obtain title to a vehicle? How do I correct a public record?
There are no forms - see Writ of Mandamus.
How do I file a Writ of Mandamus?
A Writ of Mandamus is generally an Order from a superior court compelling a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly. For example, a Writ of Mandamus may be used to correct spelling on a birth certificate or other public record or have a title for a car issued.
The Rules for Administrative Mandamus govern actions for judicial review of a quasi-judicial order or an action of an administrative agency where judicial review is not expressly authorized by law. See Maryland Rule 7-401-403. For the Rule on Writs of Mandamus for other than Administrative Mandamus, see Rule 15-701.
More information may also be available on the People's Law Library website.
I want to file for a divorce. Which one do I file for: Absolute or Limited?
The Clerk's Office cannot decide which type of divorce, Absolute or Limited, you should apply for, but we can provide you with information to help you decide.
An Absolute Divorce completely dissolves the marriage. Once a judgment or decree of absolute divorce is entered, the parties become free to remarry. To qualify for an Absolute Divorce, under *Voluntary Separation, the parties shall have voluntarily lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
*Besides a Voluntary Separation, there are other grounds for receiving an Absolute Divorce; such as adultery, desertion, etc. with different requirements. See Maryland Annotated Code Family Law 7-103.
A Limited Divorce does not completely dissolve the marriage and remarriage is not permitted until an absolute divorce is obtained. The parties live separate and apart without cohabitation and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation, but the parties may not qualify for an Absolute Divorce or they do not want a complete dissolution of marriage yet. However, there are other issues of which the parties can not privately agree, that need to be temporarily resolved by the Court, such as custody, visitation, child support, or real property issues. Couples do not have to get a limited divorce before seeking an absolute divorce. For more information, see the People's Law Library website.
After filing a Complaint, can I serve the other party myself?
No. Service can be made by anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case. Service can be made by Private Process, Certified Mail, or Sheriff. Once the party is served, there are affidavits of service that must be filed with the Clerk. There is a $40.00 fee for Sheriff Service that is paid directly to the Sheriff. When filing the Complaint, if you know that you want to have a sheriff obtain service, you can include a check made payable to the Sheriff in the amount of $40.00 for each person to be served. This must be a separate check to the Sheriff and should not be included with any filing fees that are made payable to the Clerk. For more information on the "Service" process, please visit the People's Law Library website. General instructions for self-represented forms can be found here.
How can I get the other party served when I don't know where they are?
If you are not sure where the other party lives to have them served it is recommended that you do some research before you file your case. Some helpful information about finding a party is located on the People's Law Library website.
The Court does not attempt to locate the party for you. Once you file your case, a summons is issued that must be served within 60 days. If you do not obtain service on the other party, the case cannot move forward and may be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. If several attempts to serve the other party have been unsuccessful, you may have to motion the court for a method of alternative service or seek further advice from an attorney.
How do I know when the sheriff has made service on the other party?
The sheriff's office will forward a "return of service" to the Clerk's Office which indicates whether or not the person was served. The Clerk enters the return of service into the case file. You may check the case file at the Clerk's Office or view the online history on CaseSearch or you may call the Clerk's Office or the Sheriff's Department.
When will I get a court date?
In circuit court, the parties receive a scheduling order or hearing notice no later than 30 days after the defendant files an answer or response to the complaint. In a complex case, the Court may require a scheduling conference be held first.
What if the other party fails to file an Answer of Response to my Complaint?
The person served with the complaint has 30 days to answer, if they are served in Maryland; 60 days to answer, if they are served out of this State; and 90 days to answer, if they are served outside the United States. If the person served fails to answer in the time allowed, you may request an Order of Default. For more information, see the general instructions at: http://mdcourts.gov/family/forms/ccdrin.pdf or http://mdcourts.gov/family/forms/ccdr054.pdf.
After I get a Judgment against a party, how do I collect the money?
Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, the enforcement of a money judgment is automatically stayed for a period of 10 days after the entry of the judgment. This time period allows the party owing money the opportunity to file post-trial motions in response to the judgment against them.
The Court will not act on its own to collect the money you are owed. It is up to the individual who has been awarded a judgment to take the steps necessary to enforce it. There are several options available to you to collect your judgment depending on the circumstances. However, the Rules pertaining to judgment enforcement are relatively complex. For more information, visit the People's Law Library website and Maryland Rules starting with Rule 2-632.
I received a copy of a court order, but it does not have a seal on it. How can I get a court sealed (certified) copy? What is a "True Copy Test"?
Court Orders are generally sent to all the parties without a seal. They are usually stamped "True Copy Test" and signed by the person who is authorized to provide certified copies. It means that you have an exact copy of a written instrument's text, although the signatures may or may not be copies of the original signatures. A certified copy is an exact copy of the document provided under the signature and seal of a person authorized as the holder of the record to provide certified copies. Certified copies are $5.00 and have a raised seal affixed.