One West Market Street
Snow Hill, Maryland 21863
The Family Services Program was established to provide a fair and efficient way to resolve family legal matters in a problem-solving manner, with the goal of improving the lives of families and children who appear before the court.
Services and Programs
- Pro Se Family Law Project
- Co-Parenting Education Classes
- Kidshare Program
- Custody/Visitation Mediation
- Property/Child Support/Alimony Mediation
- Domestic Violence Intervention
- Child Custody Investigation/Home Study
- Court Appointed Attorney for Minor Child/ren
- Supervised Visitation/Monitored Exchange/Therapeutic Family Counseling
- Child Advocate Center of Worcester County - Cricket Center
- Problem Solving Courts
- Truancy Court Program
Pro Se Family Law Project
Provides legal assistance and advice regarding the completion of forms and self-representation involving divorce, domestic violence, custody, name change, visitation and modification of child support. Mondays from 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., in Room 101 of the Courthouse. Phone 410-632-5638.
Co-Parenting Education Classes
Provides a 6 hour class for parents who are no longer living together. Topics include the emotional impact of family separation on children and parents, the emotional impact of custody/vistation disputes on children and parents, changes in the parent-child relationship, including discipline; transitions between households; skill building on communications, conflict resolution, coping & adjustment strategies, and constructive parenting arrangements.
For children 6-17 helps children understand and communicate feelings related to family separation and how to cope with transitions between households. It is for children only - parents will be attending the 2nd session of the adult co-parenting seminar at the same time. Dinner for the children will be provided. No fee for the Kidshare program. It is held from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. at the Worcester County Health Dept.
Mediation is an alternative to litigation in cases where the parties have a dispute involving custody, visitation, and/or child support. Parents are in the best position to make fair decisions for their children regarding custody and/or visitation. It is a primary goal of the Maryland Judiciary to encourage families to resolve domestic disputes without court intervention. A court-approved mediator with 40 hours of basic training, 20 hours of domestic training and required continued education, will help to facilitate an agreement between the parties.
For those parents who are separating, we recognize that this is a stressful time for all persons involved. As you know, your role and responsibilities as parents continue regardless of your marital relationship. For those parents who have never been married, for those who are seeking a modification in their ongoing parenting plan or those who are otherwise struggling with a dispute over parenting or related issues, this can be a stressful time as well. In this time of stress, as parents or those responsible for a child or children, you need to establish workable and effective plans for meeting the needs of your child(ren).
We believe that you know and understand the needs of your child(ren) better than anyone else, and judges, magistrates and court staff cannot deal with these needs as well as parents. What we can do, however, is assist you in establishing arrangements that will help your child(ren) and keep both of you involved in the life of your child(ren).
The decisions you make will be among the most important that you, as a parent, will ever make. The future of your child(ren) will be determined by your wise, thoughtful, loving and deliberate involvement in this service. We urge you to think about the Mediation Service in this way, put the interests of your child(ren) first and commit yourselves to resolving your personal disagreements.
Property/Child Support/Alimony Mediation
Mediation is different than going to court in that the parties work together to decide what is best for them and their financial situation. The topic is restricted to property, alimony and child support issues only.
The mediator is NOT a judge, but helps the parties decide on their own how to resolve their differences. There is a limit to how many mediation sessions may be ordered by the court. For example, a judge may only order two sessions and then later order two more sessions if deemed necessary. The mediator is appointed by the court from a qualified list of court approved mediators. Parties are expected to participate in Good Faith and make a genuine effort toward resolving their dispute.
Domestic Violence Intervention
Cases involving Domestic Violence are referred by the Family Law Case Manager to:
Life Crisis Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 387
Salisbury, MD 21803
Fax: (410) 548-9496
Comprehensive Domestic Violence services are offered through the Life Crisis Center. The center offers shelter, food, anger management classes, domestic violence counseling and support as well as legal services. If the Life Crisis Center is contacted before the Petitioner goes to court, a counselor may be available to accompany the client to complete the necessary forms to file for an Ex-Parte. If the Ex-Parte is granted you may then be eligible for legal representation for the final protective order hearing through their Legal Services Program.
Child Custody Investigation/Home Study
Why has an investigation been ordered?
The court needs the ability to identify and to assist the family effectively regarding allegations of abuse and neglect. For example, the issues could include substance or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, mental health issues or poor living conditions for the child(ren).
When is an investigation ordered?
Either upon a written motion of a party or at the Scheduling Conference.
What to expect during the home study process:
- Upon payment of the home study fee, the case will be assigned to a social worker who will contact each party by phone or letter.
- The social worker will make home visits and interview occupants of the residence.
- The social worker will contact references, you will be asked to provide other professionals as resources, for example, teachers, doctors and day care providers. A criminal background check will be obtained.
- The social worker will be looking into areas such as your abilities as a parent to meet the needs of the children concerned, your living arrangements, and ability to financially support your family.
- The Social Worker will submit a written report to be filed with the Court prior to the hearing on the merits.
Court Appointed Attorney for Minor Child(ren)
When a custody dispute between the parties involves allegations of abuse, a child’s refusal to visit with a parent, and/or a parent’s refusal to allow a child to visit a parent, the court may determine that the child’s interests, and not those of the parents, need to be represented before the court. A court-appointed attorney conducts an investigation with the parties, their children and those individuals having information that may be helpful to the court in making a custody determination. The attorney may make a determination and recommendation after pinpointing what is in the best interest of the child and whose responsibility is primarily to the court.
The fee is determined by the Court. The parties send the payment to the Clerk of the Court and it is placed in the Registry of the Court until a further Order of Court is filed to pay the appointed attorney’s fees.
The following issues related to the child(ren) are addressed:
- Information about child(ren)
- School background
- Day care
- Social activities
- Religious training
- Daily living patterns
- Physical and mental health
- Personality and temperament
- Child’s discipline and chores
- Mother and father’s activities with child(ren)
- Child’s relationship with parents
- Child’s attitude with parents
- Child’s attitude toward parent’s extended relationships
- Other relevant facts, including educational and medical records
The attorney may participate in any hearing regarding custody, visitation and child support matters. The Best Interest Attorney may also issue subpoenas and call witnesses when it is deemed appropriate and the Attorney believes it reflects the best interest of the child(ren).
Cost: $100 per hour not to exceed $1,000 unless further order of the Court.
Supervised Visitation/Monitored Exchange/ Therapeutic Family Counseling
Lower Shore Family Center
The center offers a safe and neutral location for divorced or separated non-custodial parents living in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties to exchange or visit their children and to rebuild a healthy parent-child relationship. The purpose is to supervise and objectively report back to the referring judge.
212 E. Main Street, 2nd Floor
Salisbury, MD 21801
Hours of Operation
- Tuesday 6:00 p.m. – monitored exchange
- Wednesday 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. - supervised visitation/ monitored exchange
- Friday 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. - supervised visitation/ monitored exchange
- Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. - supervised visitation
- Sunday 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. - supervised visitation
- Sunday 5 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. - monitored exchange
- Holidays may change the schedule.
Order of the Court for the tri-county area and Department of Social Services.
Determined by the Lower Shore Family Center
Lower Shore Family Center Rules & Guidelines
- Procedures and rules for the family should initially be strict; it is easier to lessen restrictions then increase.
- In-take assessment process is completed before the services are utilized; driver’s license number, employment, medical problems, photos, family history and release form are signed should an agency need information (ex. D.S.S., Court, attorney).
- Separate space is needed for a waiting parent and a visiting parent but time can separate if space is limited.
- The following procedure is used for Monitored Exchange:
- Non-custodial parent arrives 15 minutes early
- Custodial parent brings children at designated time
- Both parents sign in at different times and areas
- Custodial parent will give any necessary information the non-custodial parent should know regarding medications, school, etc.
- Transport down the hall to non-custodial parent, custodial parent can leave
15 minutes must lapse before the non-custodial parent can leave with the child/ren
- The process is reversed for pick-up
- Observations are recorded
- The following procedure is used for Supervised Visitation:
- Non-custodial parent arrives 15 minutes early and is assigned to a room for the visit
- Custodial parent brings child/ren at designated time
- Both parents sign in at different times and areas
- Children and staff member go to the assigned room to visit with non-custodial parent for designated time
- Staff member facilitates activities for the first half of the session and “relaxed” time for the last half of the visit
- Observations are recorded
- If any member of the staff suspects drug and/or alcohol use prior to the visit or exchange, the visit will be canceled and notification will be sent to the referring agency. No inappropriate behavior will be tolerated. No further visits will be arranged once visitation has been terminated.
- A maximum of 2 hours per visit, unless, otherwise specified by the Program Director. If at any time a Center staff member determines the visit should be stopped, he/she is empowered by the Courts to do so.
- The Managing Director will be responsible for the staff, scheduling, reporting and general programmatic issues.
- There will be NO exchange of any material that has not been approved by the Center. For example, no money, candy or notes will be exchanged. Presents are allowed on specific gift giving days only. These gifts must be unwrapped and approved by the Center prior to your visit. Gifts will leave the Center with Child.
- A staff member will be present at all times and will accompany the child to the bathroom if needed.
- Court cases may not be discussed at the visit with the child/ren or any staff member.
- Promises or talk of future visits will not be allowed.
- No smoking is allowed in the library or the Visitation Center. No one will be permitted to leave the building to smoke once the supervised visitation is taking place.
- It will be the responsibility of the parties to contact the Program Director to find out if the Center is closed due to weather. A doctor’s excuse is expected when a visit does not take place.
- There will be NO provoking, fighting with, swearing at, or physically disciplining the child/ren. If this behavior occurs, the visit will end and the offending person will be asked to leave.
- If required for continuity of care, a release of information form will be available.
- Contact Program Director of LSFC, at Life Crisis, Inc. - 410-749-0771 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday only. For cancellations only, call 410-749-HELP (4357) hotline.
- The Center WILL NOT make exceptions to the rules and regulations.
- Interpreters for the hearing impaired will be arranged by the referring agency.
- Please consider your child’s feeding schedule before the visit occurs.
- All staff members of the program can submit a written evaluation in lieu of a court appearance.
Child Advocate Center of Worcester County - Cricket Center
The purpose of the Cricket Center is to provide a comprehensive, culturally competent, multidisciplinary team approach to the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child physical and sexual abuse in a child-friendly environment. This collaborative team response will enhance the investigative process, facilitate the prosecution of those who commit these crimes in Worcester County, minimize the trauma of abuse for the child victim and the non-offending family members, prevent further victimization and promote emotional healing for the child victim and family. Any child maltreatment should be reported to the local Department of Social Services, (410) 641-0097/
Problem Solving Courts
Problem solving courts are collaborations between the Maryland Judiciary, DJS, State's Attorney's Office, the Office of the Public Defender, schools, substance abuse and mental health providers and FSP. Juvenile drug courts incorporate varying levels of treatment as well as vocational, educational and life skills training in an effort to support positive behaviors. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by all members of the Operational Team for a partnership and commitment to serve the client and family with wrap-around services. For more information please contact the Worcester County Drug Court Coordinator at 410-632-3130.
Truancy Court Program
The Worcester County Truancy Court Program is a collaborative problem solving court that includes the court, the Board of Education, the Department of Juvenile Services, and the Worcester County Health Department. The purpose of Truancy Court is to identify truant students early on in the school year, provide a court forum where students and parents are accountable, and make appropriate referrals for individual and/or necessary family services to reduce and/or eliminate truant behaviors.