The Circuit Court’s Family Law Self Help Clinic has resumed full operations with walk-in, in-person clinics held each Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Those in need of assistance with Family Law matters (divorce, custody, visitation, child support, guardianship, name changes, domestic violence) will have the opportunity to meet with an attorney for free. Clinic attorneys do not provide representation in court, but they can assist you in selecting appropriate forms, completing those forms, and referring to additional agencies and services as appropriate. You are also urged to take advantage of the many resources available at the Court’s Law Library, or at www.mdcourts.gov/helpcenter/mchc or by calling the Court Help Center at 410-260-1392.
Family Support Services Coordinator
The Following Services and Programs Are Now Available to the Circuit Court for Washington County
- Courthouse Family Law Clinic/Self-Help Assistance
- Parenting Plan Tool
- Co-Parenting Seminars
- Attorneys for Minor Children
- Mental Health/Custody Assessments
- Parent Coordination
- Mediation Services
- Supervised Visitation
- Substance Abuse Evaluation
- Domestic Violence Assistance
- Legal Resources
Courthouse Family Law Clinic/Self-Help Assistance
The clinic is provided through a contract with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (“MVLS”). Walk-ins (first come, first serve) are welcome, every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in which an MVLS attorney is available within the courthouse Law Library, to assist self-represented litigants who meet the income eligibility. Legal advice and forms assistance is provided in Family Law matters for which domestic relation forms exist. For those individuals whose income exceeds MVLS guidelines, the attorney will identify the issues and provide the appropriate forms.
Please click the following link for additional details.
The purpose of the co-parenting seminars is to give parents skills to mitigate the effects of the family dissolution on their children, and provide strategies to communicate and make decisions together on behalf of the children. The seminar is ordered by the Court in contested custody and access cases, and requires the parties to contact directly, one of the available providers.
Select one of the following providers:
- 6-hour Online Parenting Program -- The cost of the online service is $75. Register online and pay using PayPal or a major credit card. Discounted programs are available to income eligible parents. Please contact http://washingtonmd.onlineparentingprograms.com directly for a discount code. Classes also offered in Spanish. A certificate is issued to the participants that complete the course. Classes also offered in Spanish. A certificate is issued to the participants that complete the course.
- National Family Resiliency Center’s Co-Parent and Parents Forever Online Program (NFRC) -- To register and pay ($70 program fee), please visit http://www.NFRCparentseminars.org or call (410)-740-9553. At the center of the page, immediately below the conventional login prompts, click on the link, “New Registrants Only.” Select “Washington County” as your course. The auto-registration will direct you from that point onwards. Please note that all credit cards are accepted. PayPal is also an option for payment. Class also offered in Spanish. Complies with MD Rule 9-204’s 6-hour parent education requirement. “Fee waivers” available upon application with NFRC for low-income parents. Call NFRC directly at (410)-740-9553 to request a fee waiver. A certificate is issued to participants that complete the course.
Attorneys For Minor Children
In contested custody cases the Court, by way of a motion filed by one of the parties, may order an attorney to represent a child's best interest or to be a child's privilege attorney. Such an appointment may occur if the parties are unable to reach an agreement AND there is a compelling reason why a child needs separate representation. Parents are ultimately responsible for payment of the attorney for the minor child(ren), however if the parent's income is sufficiently low, grant funding may be able to assist depending upon availability. A completed Motion for Waiver of Family Services Fees + Supporting Affidavit is required and must be submitted to the Family Services Coordinator for consideration.
Mental Health/Custody Assessments
Mental health/custody assessments are conducted by a licensed mental health professional to provide evidence to the Court and to offer parenting plan recommendations to the parents and the Judge. The health professional meets with each parent and child(ren) individually and jointly, and, following professional guidelines, timely submits a report to the Court. The parties are responsible for payment of all fees associated with such assessment, as ordered by the Court. If parties are income eligible, Grant funds may be available to assist depending upon availability. A completed Motion for Waiver of Family Services Fees + Supporting Affidavit is required and must be submitted to the Family Services Coordinator for consideration.
Parent coordinators are experienced, licensed mental health professionals trained to work with high conflict divorcing/estranged parents as a neutral third party. The purpose of parent coordination is to minimize children's exposure to parents' conflict by assisting parents in developing and implementing agreements that meet the children’s' needs for health development and reasonable access to each parent. The Court orders parent coordination in high conflict divorce/custody cases, and the parties are responsible for payment of the fees of parent coordinators.
When appropriate, the Circuit Court for Washington County will order parties in contested child access/child support, marital property, and/or alimony cases to resolve their disputes through mediation. "Mediation" as defined in Maryland Rule 17-102(d), is the process in which the parties appear before an impartial mediator, who through the application of standard mediation techniques generally accepted within the professional community and without providing legal advice, assists the parties in reaching their own voluntary agreement for the resolution of all or part of their dispute. The mediator helps parents develop a parenting plan, make important decisions and reach agreements that are in the best interest of their child(ren).
Washington County has a list of mediators approved to conduct mediation involving child access disputes. Mediators will conduct up to two 2-hour Court-ordered sessions.. The cost is $200 per hour, to be paid in equal shares by the parties. The cost may be off-set through the Family Law Fund for income eligible parties depending upon grant funding availability.
The Court may order supervised access when the Court determines a need for guided contact with one or both parents, or it is necessary to establish or reestablish a parent/child relationship. A neutral third person is responsible for observing and seeking to ensure the safety of those involved. Parties are responsible for the cost of supervised access, as instructed in the court order.
Substance Abuse Evaluation
The Circuit Court for Washington County has a state-approved provider that conducts substance abuse evaluations and submits reports to the Court. The Court may order parties to obtain drug and/or alcohol assessments and allocate the costs for the assessment to the parties.
Domestic Violence Assistance
Contact the District Court at 240-420-4600 between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If the court is closed, contact the Commissioner’s Office of the District Court at 240-420-4650 or 240-313-2840.
CASA: 301-739-4990 or 301-739-8975 (Hotline)
Family Law Hotline (provides limited legal service): 1-800-845-8550
Find a Lawyer: Search by Practice Type: Family Law
Lawyer Referral: 1-800-649-1090
Legal Aid Bureau: 1-800-999-8904 or 301-694-7414
Maryland Volunteer Legal Services : 1-800-510-0050
Washington County Child Protection Services (DSS): 240-420-2222