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Family Docket -  Case Management
[Civil] [Criminal] [Family] [Juvenile]

  1. To begin a case in the court, you must file a Complaint.   Forms are available in room 109 Courthouse East.  If you require assistance or have any questions, there are attorneys and paralegals available in room 114 Courthouse East (Pro Se Assistance Project) to help you. 

    The Pro Se Assistance Project at the Circuit Court for Baltimore City is staffed by two attorneys and one legal assistant, who help litigants with filing out forms and provide limited legal assistance. The program is open for walk-in service from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily (Monday through Friday). Service is on a first come, first served basis and is limited to 20 persons in the morning and 20 persons in the afternoon. There is no income screening. The staff is not currently available by telephone. Concerns regarding the administration of the project should be forwarded to Sue German at 410-396-3648.

    Paternity / nonsupport cases must be filed with the Clerk's Office in room 109 Courthouse East or in room 441 Mitchell Courthouse.   The fee for filing a new case is $105.00 ($125.00 for attorneys).  If you already have a case in the family division that has been closed, it will cost $25.00 ($35.00 for attorneys) to reopen the case.


  2. Summons is issued by Clerk's office.

  3. The Summons and a copy of the Complaint must be served on the Defendant.  Questions regarding service should be directed to the Pro Se Assistance Project in room 114E.

  4. The Family Division Case Manager reviews cases after an Answer is filed or Default is granted.  

  5. Uncontested cases and other single hearing cases are set before a Master Examiner, Domestic Master or Judge as appropriate.

  6. If the case is contested, it is set in for a Scheduling Conference.

  7. If custody and /or visitation is at issue, litigants are scheduled for COPE (Co-Parenting Education) Seminar and children between the ages of 7 and 13 may be scheduled for the Children's Group.

    In COPE (Co-parenting Education) Seminars parents receive vital information about the effects of family conflict on their children.  They are informed about conflict triggers and taught effective dispute resolution techniques.  Ultimately, parents are asked to realign their thinking and focus on the best interests of their children instead of personal conflicts.

    The Children's Group is aimed at reducing the impact of changes in the family on children.  The group teaches coping mechanisms children can use to reduce anxiety about the changes that are occurring in their homes and gives them reassurance that there are other children also coping with the same concerns.
      
  8. If custody and/or visitation is at issue, and there are no allegations of child or spousal abuse, parties may also be ordered to mediation.

    Mediation is an attempt to spare families and children from the acrimony that is spawned by litigation.  When families are able to craft decisions themselves, they are more likely to be able to live with the results and less likely to return to court.

  9. At Scheduling Conference the Master or Judge will attempt to help the litigants settle the case or at least define contested issues.  If no settlement is possible, other significant events in the case are scheduled.  The Master may also refer the parties to in-house mediation at that time. 

  10. Pendente Lite hearings are scheduled at the Scheduling Conference.
     

    At a pendente lite hearing issues such as custody, child support, and alimony are settled temporarily pending settlement or trial.  You must file a request in writing with the clerk's office for a  pendente lite hearing.

  11. At Scheduling Conference, Litigants are also referred to the Court ordered settlement conference.

    Members of  the Bar with demonstrated experience and interest in family law, volunteer to meet with parties ( and their attorneys, if applicable) and attempt to arrive at a settlement.  This Court ordered settlement conference is frequently the first time that people actually sit down together and  discuss the issues in their case.

  12. Litigants at Scheduling Conference or Pendente Lite Hearing may be referred to Medical Services for a variety of services.

    a.    Supervised Visitation Program.

    Contested custody and/or visitation cases frequently produce allegations of behavior that would make it perilous or disquieting for a child to visit with a particular parent.  In other cases the parent-child bond has been disrupted or has never been established.  The Supervised Visitation Program provides a mechanism whereby non-custodial parents can interact with their children in an environment that is safe and comfortable for both parents and children.  The interaction between parent and child is observed by a social worker via one-way mirror or by the actual presence of the social worker in the room, based on the comfort level of the involved parties.  The social worker works with all parties to develop appropriate interpersonal skills while reducing conflict, promoting safety and maximizing the benefits of the child's relationship with both parents.  The goal of the program is to create a situation where parties can visit with their children in less restrictive circumstances.

    b.    Child Exchange Program.

    The exchange of children for visitation is often a volatile event, because hostile parents are forced to confront one another at each exchange.  In the worst case, this interaction places one of the parties in danger (cases where domestic violence has occurred in the relationship).  In other cases, strangers may be unwillingly drawn into family conflicts, and children are forced to witness inappropriate displays of anger and aggression.  The Child Exchange Program offers a safe mechanism for the exchange of children for visitation.  The program is located in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City and is open on Friday evening from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Sunday afternoons from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.  A social worker and security guard staff the exchange site.  Parents bring their children to the exchange site and the social worker facilitates the transfer for  visitation so that the parties never directly interact. 

    c.  Custody Evaluation.

    Evaluations by trained psychiatrists, psychologist, social workers, and other mental health professionals are available to judges, masters, and litigants in the Medical Services Office.  Assessment by these mental health professionals in cases where custody or visitation is hotly contested often prove to be a valuable tool to judges when determining the best interests of a child or children.

  13. At Scheduling Conference or Pendente Lite hearing litigants may be referred to the Social Services Coordinator for:

    a.    Substance Abuse Evaluation and referral for treatment.

    b.    Referrals for other community services (parenting assistance, individual or family counseling, etc.).

    c.    Emergency, short-term, individual and family counseling.

  14. Litigants may be referred to the Custody and Adoption Unit at Scheduling Conference or Pendente Lite Hearing for:

    a.    Home study evaluation for custody.

  15. Litigants receive date for Pre-trial Conference.  At this conference, the Judge will once again attempt to assist the parties with settling their case.  Issues to be tried are defined
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  16. Trial.  If a case does not settle, a Judge will hear it.  The Judge will enter a final order and settle all issues in the case.