Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. weekdays
Telephone: (410) 638-4916
The Family Law Self-Help Center provides legal information and forms to assist unrepresented litigants in matters of divorce, custody/visitation, child support, domestic violence petitions, and name changes. The Center is funded through a grant from the Administrative Office of the Courts Family Law Division.
The Family Law Self Help Center is located within the Circuit Court for Harford County on Level A.
Why Visit the Self-Help Center if I Have No Questions?
Anyone who is filing family law forms in the Harford County Circuit Court, without an attorney representing you, is asked to have the staff of the Self-Help Center review your forms before you file them. Our staff members provide what we hope is a helpful check that your forms are complete, which may avoid delays in processing due to errors/missing information you did not catch. We can also provide information about next-steps, so that you might have a better time-frame and understanding as to how your case will proceed.
Where to Find Us
The Self-Help Center is located on Level A of the Circuit Courthouse (one floor below the level on which you enter the building). After entrance screening by Court Security (Level One), you will take the elevator to Level A. The Self-Help Center is on your right after exiting the elevator, please look for our sign and open door.
The Self-Help Center does not provide for appointments. There is a sign-in sheet and computer sign-in just inside the office doors, and clients are seen on a first come, first served basis. There may be a wait for assistance.
The Self-Help Center can also assist individuals by phone, during office hours. Phone calls are returned within 24 hours. A translator via Language Line Solutions is available for those who do not speak English as their primary language.
We do not correspond with pro se litigants by e-mail or by facsimile.
Overview of the Role of the Self-Help Center
The staff of the Self-Help Center (SHC) gives assistance with legal forms and general civil court procedure questions, as well as resource information, to pro se litigants (that is, people who do not have an attorney of record). We do NOT provide legal advice to pro se litigants. When you use our services, you will be asked to confirm, during our sign-in process, your understanding that our staff does not provide legal advice and that no staff member will represent you in your legal matter.
Staff members of the Self-Help Center can assist you with filing a new case, reviewing case search to determine the status of a current or old case, filing modifications of an existing order, discuss alternative pleadings, filing costs and waivers, review pleadings to make sure they are complete (that is, signed, dated, etc.), and answer basic questions about court process and procedure (including options for service of process on the other party). We can also provide contact information for additional legal resources to assist the pro se litigant, such as, The Maryland Courts Self Help Center, SARC and the Harford County Bar Foundation. We can also refer litigants to the Harford County Community Mediation Program (a free program assisting litigants to work collaboratively to develop a parent-access plan).
There is no charge for using the services of the Self-Help Center.
Areas of Assistance by the Self-Help Center
The Self-Help Center has forms available for litigant use in the following areas of family law:
Divorce (Limited and Absolute)
Name Changes (adults and minor children)
We can assist two or more opposing parties who want to come in and file, at the same time, for divorce, custody, and other family law matters that may be uncontested (that is, both parties are in agreement) in order to expedite the processing of your case.
The Self-Help Center can also assist pro se clients with steps necessary for filing ex parte (“for one party only”) pleadings for expedited judicial review. Requests for a Temporary Order (as an emergency) are heard by the Court on a limited basis. Certain circumstances might be considered by the Court for more immediate ruling (that is, pleadings are reviewed by the Court on the same-day as filing, or in a shortened time frame) on a case-by-case basis and may include:
- Emergency Custody (discretion of the Court as to what circumstance qualifies as an emergency, and requires proper prior notice [given by the filing party] to all other parties or counsel)
- Petition for Protection (domestic violence, child abuse, vulnerable adult abuse)
- Emergency Evaluations (when a person is a threat to themselves, or to the safety of others)
- Contempt – Failure to Return a Child (when there is an Order for a custody schedule, and a child has not been returned according to that Order, with proper prior notice given by the filing party to all other parties or counsel). The Court can sign a Pick-Up Order for the child to be returned to the custodial parent.
When courts are closed
In the event of an emergency arising regarding a child’s safety, at a time when the courts are closed, pro se litigants are encouraged to call Child Protective Services in the county/state where your child resides.
There is a Commissioner at the Harford County Detention Center (1030 Rock Spring Road, Bel Air, Maryland 21014) available to review Petitions for Protection (domestic violence, child abuse, vulnerable adult abuse) when the Circuit or District Court for Harford County are closed.
Lawyer in the Lobby Program
The Harford County Bar Foundation does offer the Lawyer in the Lobby Program at the Circuit Court for Harford County and the Lawyer in the Library Program. The Lawyer in the Lobby Program and the Lawyer in the Library Program is staffed by volunteer attorneys who provide legal assistance at a minimal fee of $5.00 to low-income, self-represented litigants. The attorney(s) who volunteer to staff the Lawyer in the Lobby Program and the Lawyer in the Library Program provide limited legal advice and assistance.
The Circuit Court for Harford County is not liable in any way for any advice given or any advice not given during one's interview at the Self-Help Center and/or at the Lawyer in the Lobby/ The Lawyer in the Library Program. The Lawyer in the Lobby/ The Lawyer in the Library Program is staffed with volunteer attorney(s) who are not Circuit Court for Harford County employee(s).
Information provided on this website is subject to change.