Circuit Court for Frederick County
General Information: 301-600-1976
Family Services Information Contact
The Family Services Administrator: tel 301-600-2023
Please see the ADR/Mediation Programs page for more details on Family Mediation Programs available in the Circuit Court for Frederick County, including the in-house mediation program, and for a roster of court-approved mediators.
The Circuit Court Self Help Center provides legal advice and information on family law matters including custody, divorce and trial preparation. Assistance includes one-on-one consultations, workshops and tools for case organization and trial preparation.
The Family Law Self-Help Center is currently working under restricted operations due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency:
Starting June 8, 2020, we are accepting appointments for phone or video appointments.
Appointment line is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 9 am – 11 am and 3 pm – 5 pm.
HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT TO DO NEXT IN YOUR CUSTODY OR DIVORCE CASE?
Join a brief overview and Question and Answer session with an attorney from the Family Law Self Help Center. There is no cost to attend. Just click on the link below at the scheduled day/time. Note, the link will only be live 15 minutes prior to each session.
Sessions are offered remotely (by video or audio - your choice) on the following dates:
July 28, 2020 8:30 am
August 11, 2020 8:30 am
August 25, 2020 8:30 am
September 8, 2020 8:30 am
September 22, 2020 8:30 am
No walk-in appointments are available at this time. As we transition to fully re-opening our Center, our intake procedures may change. Please refer back to this website regularly for updates: www.frederickcountymd.gov/SelfHelp
For tools and information on case preparation and case organization, please visit the website clientnotebook.com to view helpful videos (see video for Litigants) and organizational tools for download.
IMPORTANT: By using the services of the Self Help Center by audio or video, you accept and understand that video conferencing has potential risks, including interruptions and technical difficulties. The attorney or paralegal may need to end a session because of interruptions and difficulties and the Self Help Center is not responsible for providing any additional assistance. The Self Help Center is also not responsible for any confidential information being shared by third parties who may enter into the conference either by your consent, in error (ie. hacking) or any other manner. The audio or video sessions may NOT BE RECORDED under any circumstances and staff of the Self Help Center does not consent to any such recording. The Self Help Center does not provide legal representation or attorneys to represent or accompany you at court proceedings. The Family Law Self Help Center helps litigants better represent themselves until they are able to obtain an attorney.
To hire a private attorney please visit Frederick Bar.
To access the co-parenting seminar, please visit http://frederick.onlineparentingprograms.com/. The seminar is ordered by the court in all contested custody/access cases, is 6 hours in length, and covers the impact of conflict on children and strategies for parents to communicate and make decisions together on behalf of their children. Emphasis is placed on creating age appropriate parenting plans and preparation for mediation. *For military parents (active duty or retired) please see information below the FAQs.
*For military parents (active duty or retired) contact Lisa Long, LCSW-C, Program Manager with the Ft. Detrick Family Advocacy Program 301.619.7453
The Court may appoint an attorney to represent the minor child or children. Such an appointment may occur if the parties are unable to reach agreement AND there is a compelling reason why a child needs separate representation, such as the presence of mental health issues or allegations of abuse. The attorneys that represent children have completed special training focused on supporting the best interests of children. This training includes education concerning the developmental stages of children, interviewing children, and issues which may be present in high conflict cases. Parents are responsible for payment of the fees for the children’s attorney. However, if the parents’ income is sufficiently low, limited grant funds through Family Services may be available. A roster of court-approved attorneys who may represent children is available upon request by contacting the Family Services Administrator at 301.600.2023.
Complex custody disputes may be referred for evaluation by a mental health professional to provide evidence to the Court and to offer parenting plan recommendations to the parents and the judge. The custody evaluation process assesses parental strengths and challenges and identifies children’s individual developmental needs. Parents are responsible for payment of all costs associated with the evaluation. However, if parties are unable to pay AND they meet income criteria, the family may qualify for in-house custody evaluation services. The Court employs an in-house custody evaluator to provide evaluations to income qualified parties.
A Status / Scheduling Conference is set immediately upon the filing of a family case. These conferences are generally held approximately forty-five (45) days after the date of filing, hopefully giving sufficient time for the Defendant(s) to be served and possibly answer the complaint. The purpose of the Scheduling Conference is to define the issues, clarify expectations, set dates, and impose a timeline for concluding the case. The Court may order services to support settlement.
A Settlement Conference is an opportunity for the parties to inform the Court of the issues that have been settled and if there are any issues still outstanding. Parties and any lawyers will be expected to be present and make good faith efforts to resolve their case that day. Additional services may be ordered at this time.
Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchange centers are offered to provide a safe environment for children to have parental contact, therapeutic services and/or to transfer between parents.
The Mental Health Association operates a Supervised Visitation and Monitored Transfer Center:
One-hour supervised visits or monitored transfers may be scheduled after intake interviews are complete. Therapeutic Supervised visits, Family Therapy, or Parent Coaching may also be offered. Fees are on a sliding scale. Call 301-663-0011 or visit the MHA Website for additional details, including days and hours of availability.
If parties raise credible allegations of drug or alcohol abuse to the Court’s attention, the Judge or Magistrate may order the parties to obtain a drug and/or alcohol assessment and follow any recommendations. The Court is authorized to allocate the costs for the assessment and any recommended treatment.
The Mental Health Association of Frederick County has a number of resources to help families and children who may be struggling with mental health issues. Please call 301-663-0011 or visit the MHA Website for additional information.
Heartly House, Inc., has been serving victims of intimate partner abuse, rape/sexual assault, human trafficking, and child abuse for over 40 years. Heartly House also serves secondary victims such as family members, spouses, friends, and significant others. Legal Services include on-site attorneys and Victim Advocates. The staff attorneys offer direct representation for Protective and Peace Order hearings in District and Circuit Court and limited representation in other family law matters. Victim Advocates provide support, accompaniment to civil and criminal hearings, safety planning, referrals, hospital accompaniments and information on courthouse protocol. Heartly House also offers 24-hour crisis support, individual and group counseling, and emergency shelter for people in immediate physical danger from an intimate partner. Heartly House services are available to all residents of Frederick County, and are provided free of charge, regardless of income. 24-hour Hotline is 301-662-8800.
Parenting coordination is a service which can be very beneficial to families struggling with conflict. A Parenting Coordinator is typically appointed by the Court but can be employed by the parties themselves by agreement. The Parenting Coordinator helps parents resolve issues, communicate effectively, and ultimately better co-parent. Children, in turn, benefit from the work of the Parent Coordinator as she or he works with the family to create a new, positive dynamic. Parenting Coordinators are highly trained professionals who have met the education, training, and experience required by Maryland Rule 9-205.2. A list of qualified parent Coordinators can be obtained by contacting the Family Services Administrator at 301.600.2023.