Many individuals find it difficult to secure legal representation in family matters. Legal services may be costly and there may be few legal services organizations who could provide low-cost or free assistance. Family courts around the country face significant challenges in providing access to the justice system for an increasing number of unrepresented, or pro se, individuals.
Maryland's circuit courts are operating programs to assist otherwise unrepresented individuals with family law problems involving divorce, custody, visitation, child support, name changes and related legal matters. Twenty-three of Maryland's twenty-four circuit court jurisdictions now operate Family Law Self-Help Centers. These programs are heavily utilized by Maryland citizens seeking brief legal advice, information and forms. Maryland's pro se assistance projects served 27,461 individuals in the period from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000. Many of those served are individuals who, because of their limited means, would be forced to navigate the legal system without the benefit of counsel.
Pro se forms are available for a multitude of case types including custody, divorce, visitation, child support and name changes. Each county/city has differing times for their clinics. Refer to your county for dates and times. Law libraries may have pro se forms and each circuit court clerk's office has pro se forms.
Pro se assistance also exists for victims of domestic violence. Many counties have domestic violence legal assistance programs that assist people who wish to file domestic violence petitions. Also refer to the Hotlines existing statewide.
Other sources of assistance may include the Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service, Inc., and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, Inc.