P. O. Box 859
Leonardtown, MD 20650
Linda J. Grove
Family Support Services Coordinator
301-475-4200 ex. 74110
What is the Family Services Program?
In 1998, the Maryland Judiciary was given the responsibility of overseeing the Family Divisions and Family Services Program with an initiative by the legislature. Maryland circuit courts have initiated comprehensive services to benefit families entering the court system. These services provide efficient case management of family law cases for families and children who are entering the judicial system. With the creation of the Family Services Program, St. Mary’s County Circuit Court encourages and believes parents should be the primary decision-makers. Fostering parents as the primary decision-makers is the basis for the creation of the services provided through the court process.
The Family Support Services Coordinator assists the County Administrative Judge in efficient case management of family law cases involving children and families. The Family Services Coordinator also maintains and establishes working and cooperative relationships with community based agencies.
What are the programs offered through the Family Services Office?
- Custody and Visitation Mediation
- Communication and Relationship Intervention Program
- Co-Parenting Divorce and Separation Education Program
- Children's Psycho-Educational Support Group
- Supervised Visitation Program
- Custody Evaluations
- Psychological Evaluations
- Other Family Service Referrals
- Family Law Self Help Legal Clinic
- Peoples Law Library Outreach Site
- Legal and Community Resources
When there are contested issues of custody and/or visitation, a case will be set in for a Scheduling Conference with the Master of Domestic Relations. The purpose of the Scheduling Conference is to discuss any outstanding issues as it relates only to custody and visitation. The Master of Domestic Relations may refer your case to participate in mediation. You will be given a Court Order referring your case to mediation, which may consist of two sessions. The court order will direct the parties to contact the mediator to schedule their mediation. The Family Services Office has two mediation programs:
Court approved Mediators through Mediation Services of Southern Maryland using a co-mediation approach. This program is paid by a grant through the Family Services Office. Referrals for this program have to be made through the court process and there are no fees assessed to the parties.
Mediation is also provided by court approved mediators for custody and visitation mediation. The cost of mediation is $100.00 per person per two-hour session. The Clerks Office maintains a list of court approved mediators.
The Master’s Office is devoted to assisting parents in the resolution of conflicts through positive and cooperative efforts. The Center for Children provides assistance by having a therapist during the Master of Domestic Relations domestic docket on Mondays, Tuesday, and Wednesdays. The therapist provides attention to those cases involving conflict in parental relationships to help them overcome the personal reasons of the divorce and/or separation and focus more on the impact the separation has on the children.
Contact: Linda J. Grove, Family Support Services Coordinator, and St. Mary’s County Circuit Court
The Transparenting Seminar is a six-hour co-parenting divorce and separation education program. This program emphasizes how to avoid harm to children when the parents are involved in a contested custody and/or visitation case. The program focuses on fostering the child’s emotional health during periods of stress and adjustment. This program is offered monthly for two days. The program is split up in two days. The cost of the program is $120.00 per person.
Contact: Sandra Curtis, Walden/Sierra, Inc. (301) 863-6670 or Linda J. Grove, Family Support Services Coordinator at (301) 475-7844
“Rollercoasters” is a program provided by Walden/Sierra, Inc. of St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The “Rollercoasters” Program is a companion to the “Transparenting” parenting seminar and runs concurrently with that program. It is a six-week program, which is offered once a week for a one-hour session. “Rollercoasters” is an educational support group for children of separated and divorced parents between the ages of 5 to 12 years of age. The format deals with the self-blame and helps the children with developmental progress during a time of adjustment, loss and domestic strife.
Contact: Sarah Stevens, Walden/Sierra, Inc. (301) 863-6670
The Center for Children has developed a supervised visitation program in conjunction with the Court to help ensure that the time spent during visitation is rewarding to both parent and child. The Center for Children provides this program at their Leonardtown Office. Cases referred for supervised visitation require a court order, agreement by the attorneys and/or the parties involved in a particular case or can be referred by the Department of Social Services.
Fees: Intake Fee $25.00 and $15.00 per visit per child
Contact: Kathy Kolesar, Supervised Visitation Coordinator
Location: Center for Children (301) 609-9887
Custody evaluations provide in-depth interviews with the parents and other collateral contacts that are significant in a child's life. Home studies look at the physical and safety conditions of a home. Custody evaluations are recommended to assist the court in making child custody and visitation arrangements that are in the best interests of a child
Address a legal question in order to assist the court in makin a child focused decision.
Sometimes the court will order a custody evaluation in some family law cases. The court will assign a psychologist and/or a licensed social worker to conduct a custodial evaluation of all of the family members. Custodial evaluations can take approximately 90 days to conduct and can cost up to several thousand dollars. The court will typically put in the order that the cost of the evaluation is to be split equally between the parties. The psychologist then provides a report to the court.
Sometimes the court will appoint an attorney for the child, which is called a Best Interests Attorney. Best Interests Attorney is appointed when the child’s own interest needs to be served by an attorney. The costs of the Best Interests Attorney are typically split between the parties.
The Family Law Self Help Legal Clinic also referred to as the Pro Se Assistance Clinic assists litigants representing themselves without an attorney in family law matters. A family law attorney provides legal advice and information to people acting as their own attorney. The attorney can provide the following assistance: which paperwork to file, assistance with completing the paperwork, how to navigate the court system, what you need to know at the time of the hearing, etc. The Family Law Self Help Legal Clinic is available four times a month, once a week.
Eligibility Requirements: NONE
Contact Person: Linda J. Grove, (301) 475-7844, press 5 for Office of the Circuit court, press 2 for Family Services, press 1 for Clinic dates. (Dates vary month to month)
The Peoples Law Library Outreach Site is a project aimed at putting legal resources physically where people need them. At this site we have provided a computer which can access the Internet, legal self-help materials and access to legal hotlines to help you address your legal concerns. St. Mary’s County Circuit Court in partnership with the St. Mary’s Memorial Library is providing this site. The site is located at the Memorial Library in Leonardtown, Maryland.
The People’s Law Library (www.peoples-law.org) is a web site created to provide access to legal information and legal self-help materials on a variety of common legal areas. The services we provide are available and useful to all members of the public, although development of the web site is based on areas of interest primarily to users with low and moderate incomes.
Contact Person: Linda J. Grove, St. Mary’s County Circuit Court, (301) 475-7844
Location: St. Mary’s Memorial Library, (301) 475-2846
- Family Law Hotline 1-800-845-8550 (Monday – Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
- Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service 1-800-510-0050
- Walden/Sierra Crisis Hotline – 301-863-6661 24 hours/7days a week
- Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy (previously known as the Women's Center) (301) 373-4141
- Department of Social Services (St. Mary’s) 240-895-7001
- Child Support Customer Service (St. Mary’s) 240-895-7100
- Clerk of the Court (St. Mary’s County) 301-475-7844
- Maryland Family Law Forms available online @ www.mdcourts.gov/family/ Click on FORMS under section Help for the Self Represented
- St. Mary's County Circuit Court Law Library hours Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
- Legal Aid Bureau, Inc. (301) 884-5935