- 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.
- Summons is issued by Clerk's office.
- 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.
- The Family Division Case Manager reviews cases after an Answer is filed or Default
- Uncontested cases and other single hearing cases are set before a Master
Examiner, Domestic Master or Judge as appropriate.
- If the case is contested, it is set in for a Scheduling Conference.
- 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
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.
- If custody and/or visitation is at issue, and there are no allegations of child or spousal abuse, parties
may also be ordered
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.
- 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.
- 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
- At Scheduling Conference, Litigants are also referred to the Court ordered
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Litigants may be referred to the Custody and Adoption Unit at Scheduling
Conference or Pendente Lite Hearing for:
a. Home study evaluation for custody.
- 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
- 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.