Family Law

Tip - Start here: Family Law for the People

General Family Law Articles

Adultery and bigamy are "crimes against marriage" in Maryland.
This article describes how the Judiciary's progressive reopening plan during the COVID-19 health emergency affects family law cases.
"Family Law for the People: Understanding the Law and Court Process" is a free, three-hour informational seminar for individuals interested in learning about common family law issues and court procedures. Featuring experienced family lawyers, the seminar will cover topics including: Child custody and support; Divorce; Starting a case; Trial process and procedures; Finding and working with an attorney; and Alternatives to trial.
What to do, what to give the student's new school and what to do if the transfer is denied.
Court records are generally open and accessible to the public. This article provides information on how to seal or shield your case records from public view.
There are a variety of benefits that unmarried cohabitants may receive from one another.
In Maryland, unmarried cohabitants can create express written contracts that are enforceable in a court of law. They can also create express oral contracts to divide personal property, but they are best advised to put into writing any divisions of real property.

Adoption

This article covers the basic laws of adoption in Maryland.

Annulment

Annulment is a relatively rare special action that establishes that your marriage never existed. If a court finds the facts necessary to grant an annulment it is as if you and your spouse were never married.

Birth Certificates

If you were born in Maryland and either your sex has been changed or you have been diagnosed with an intersex condition, you are entitled to have the sex listed on your birth certificate updated.
There are many reasons you might wish to change the name on a birth certificate. There are rules for each type of change. This includes changing from one name to another, correcting a misspelled name, adding a missing name, or correcting a parent’s information.

Child Abuse/Neglect

Children (under age 18) are deemed to be "in the need of assistance" if there is apparent abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) or neglect by a caretaker.
Maryland law makes it a crime to fail to provide for children in your care.
In Maryland, a child under the age of 8 years may not be left unattended at home, at school, or in a car.

Child Support

Maryland uses a formula to calculate child support. This formula is called the Child Support Guidelines. The court will usually order the amount of child support that the Guidelines say is correct unless someone can show that the Guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a particular case.
When parents each have primary physical custody of at least one of their children, it is called “split custody.” To compute child support, determine what each parent owes the other. The parent who owes more will then pay what they owe, minus the amount that the other parent owes.
Frequently asked questions about child support in Maryland
In Maryland, each county has established a child support enforcement agency that can assist in collecting child support.
The law allows a larger amount of earnings to be garnished for child support or alimony than for ordinary debts.
Both parents have a legal duty to support their child based to their ability to provide that support. Since 1990, Maryland has had child support guidelines in effect, which provide a formula for calculating child support based on a proportion of each parent's gross income.
Changes can be made to the amount of child support ordered by a court. These modifications are usually based on a "changed circumstance" of one of custodial parents.
Establishing paternity is the process of determining who is the legal father of a child.

Custody & Visitation

In a child custody case, or a contested child support case, the judge may choose to appoint a lawyer for the child. The judge may also choose to interview the child personally. A child who is at least 16 years old may also choose to ask for a custody change directly.
Custody and visitation are the legal terms for court decisions about how the child will spend his/her time between parents (or others).
Guardianship is a legal process where the court appoints a person to manage a minor’s personal affairs (non-financial decisions), financial affairs, or both. The court can appoint one person to manage the minor’s personal affairs and another person to manage the minor’s financial affairs. The court can also appoint two people as co-guardians to share the guardianship responsibilities. The court is the ultimate guardian and will monitor the guardianship.
Guardianship is a legal process where the court appoints a person to manage a minor’s personal affairs (non-financial decisions), financial affairs, or both. This article addresses some frequently asked questions.
The Maryland Custody & Divorce Client Notebook helps clients to navigate a family law case from start to finish, with the help of an attorney (or attorneys) from self-help, legal services, pro bono, or the paid private bar.
This article describes what a parenting plan is, and how it can be used to resolve child custody disputes.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a form of immigration relief available to undocumented children living in the U.S. who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by at least one parent and meet several other eligibility requirements.
A standby guardian is a person appointed by a parent (or parents) of a child to take care of the child in the event that the parent is mentally or physically incapable of doing so, or subject to an adverse immigration action.
When deciding grandparent visitation rights, the court must balance what is best for the child, with a parent’s constitutional right to direct the way their child is raised.
Visitation is the part of the court order that defines when, how and where the non-custodial parent may have contact with the child.

Divorce

Alimony is a periodic payment by one former spouse to the other to provide an opportunity for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting.
Divorce mediation is a time-limited, confidential process in which both you and your spouse meet with a neutral third person who helps you decide on the division of parenting responsibilities, where your children will live, when your children with spend time with each parent, how parenting decisions will be made, and the financial issues of property and support.
Maryland will recognize as valid out-of-state divorces that meet the requirements of the court granting the divorce judgment.
When a former spouse fails to comply with a court order or the terms of a private separation agreement, the other spouse may ask the court for help in gaining compliance
Federal legislation gives spouses and divorced spouses some rights in a worker’s pension plan and social security benefits.
To obtain an absolute divorce, one spouse must first prove that at least one ground for absolute divorce exists. This page gives a brief description of each ground for absolute divorce in Maryland.
To obtain a limited divorce, you must first prove at least one of four grounds. These grounds include the following:separation, cruelty of treatment, excessively vicious conduct, or desertion.
If you are in the U.S. on a visa that was granted based on your spouse’s application, a divorce or separation may affect your lawful status and ability to stay in the U.S. You must be careful in choosing whether and when to separate or get a divorce. This article will help you weigh your options.
With a few important exceptions, all the property that was acquired during a marriage is considered marital property.
Under certain conditions, a state court may award a portion of one spouse's military retired pay to the other, as part of a divorce order.
"No fault" divorce grounds for absolute divorce requires a 12 month separation OR mutual consent.
Divorce is the ending of a marriage ordered by a court. Because marriage is considered a civil contract between the parties under Maryland law, the complete dissolution of marriage is a divorce. In Maryland, there are two types of divorce: absolute and limited. Limited divorce is sometimes referred to as a legal separation.
If you are handling your own divorce, one important type of marital property that can be easily overlooked is the interest one spouse has in the other spouse's pension, retirement, profit sharing, or deferred compensation plan(s).
Agreements between persons about to marry made before a ceremony is performed and in anticipation of marriage are usually called prenuptial contracts or agreements.
A few facts on how property is treated during a divorce in Maryland and a quiz to see if you should represent yourself in your divorce.
To access a part of your spouse’s retirement, you must have a court order, often called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.
To file for divorce in Maryland one party must be resident in Maryland. To show that you are a Maryland resident for purposes of a divorce, you must be physically living in Maryland.
A couple may privately enter into an oral or written agreement to live apart. This is typically called a marital settlement agreement, separation agreement, or property settlement agreement.
Divorced spouses may be entitled to one half the wage earner's "full benefit" amount. The full benefit amount is based on the wage earner's work history.
Divorce can affect your income taxes. Your written settlement agreement should state how you and your spouse will handle the issues in this article.
Divorce is the ending of a marriage ordered by a court. Because marriage is considered a civil contract between the parties under Maryland law, the complete dissolution of marriage is a divorce. In Maryland, there are two types of divorce: absolute and limited. Limited divorce is sometimes referred to as a legal separation.
A divorce decree is a formal order issued by the court at the end of the divorce proceeding.

Emancipation

Emancipation of a minor generally refers to the process of freeing a minor (person under age 18) from parental control.
For minors who want emancipation from their parent or guardian. Depending on age, minors have the right to make some independent decisions.
For parents who want emancipation from their child.

Foster Care

This article provides information about being a foster parent (also called a “resource parent”) of a child placed in foster care in Maryland.
How the foster care system works in Maryland

Grandparents' Issues

When deciding grandparent visitation rights, the court must balance what is best for the child, with a parent’s constitutional right to direct the way their child is raised.

Guardianship

Guardianship is a court proceeding. When an adult is unable to make personal decisions, such as medical decisions, or to handle his or her own property, a court can appoint a guardian.
In Maryland, a guardian should only be appointed if there are no less restrictive alternatives. During the court guardianship proceeding, the court must first determine there is no less restrictive alternative available, so consider alternatives prior to beginning guardianship proceedings. This article lists some, but not all, available alternatives.
Establishing a guardianship is a formal, public, legal process. It is initiated when someone files a petition with a Maryland circuit court to be appointed guardian for an “alleged disabled person.” It should be noted that a disabled person is always an “alleged” disabled person until that person is determined by a court to be disabled, based on competent medical evidence, affidavits or opinions. Prior to that determination, a person is presumed to have capacity. If the court determines that a person is disabled, the court will appoint someone, most often an interested person, to serve as guardian, and issue an order setting out the terms and conditions of the appointment.
Interested persons play a pivotal role in guardianship proceedings. For example, only an interested person can petition for guardianship.
If the alleged disabled person does not already have an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney for the disabled person. This is required to ensure that the alleged disabled person’s due process rights are not violated during the guardianship proceedings.
Whether or not the guardianship is contested, a hearing on the guardianship petition will be conducted in the circuit court for the county in which the petition was filed. The two main issues in a guardianship hearing are (1) whether a guardian is needed (i.e., is the alleged disabled person really disabled?) and (2) who is the most appropriate guardian for the disabled person. The Petitioner has the burden to prove both of these issues.
Guardianship is a legal process where the court appoints a person to manage a minor’s personal affairs (non-financial decisions), financial affairs, or both. The court can appoint one person to manage the minor’s personal affairs and another person to manage the minor’s financial affairs. The court can also appoint two people as co-guardians to share the guardianship responsibilities. The court is the ultimate guardian and will monitor the guardianship.
Guardianship is a legal process where the court appoints a person to manage a minor’s personal affairs (non-financial decisions), financial affairs, or both. This article addresses some frequently asked questions.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a form of immigration relief available to undocumented children living in the U.S. who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by at least one parent and meet several other eligibility requirements.
A standby guardian is a person appointed by a parent (or parents) of a child to take care of the child in the event that the parent is mentally or physically incapable of doing so, or subject to an adverse immigration action.

Kinship Care

This article describes what a Family Safety Plan is and important terms to know.
This article describes documents that are part of the safety plan and things to consider with each.
Kinship care is commonly defined as the "full-time care, nurturing, and protection of children by relatives, members of their tribes or clans, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child."
"Informal kinship care" means a living arrangement in which a relative of a child, who is not in the care, custody, or guardianship of the local department of social services, provides for the care and custody of the child due to a serious family hardship.

Marriage

A “tort” is a civil wrong or injury remedied by the award of money damages. The tort actions that have special significance between married persons are “wrongful death” and “loss of consortium” claims.
A "common law" marriage cannot be created in Maryland. However, Maryland does recognize as valid, common law marriages created outside of Maryland if the legal requirements of the other jurisdiction have been met.
How to get a marriage license in Maryland, and who is allowed to officiate the marriage ceremony.
Agreements between persons about to marry made before a ceremony is performed and in anticipation of marriage are usually called prenuptial contracts or agreements.
Married persons are generally regarded by the courts as parties to a contract. This contract can be validly entered into (or dissolved) only by following Maryland Family Law statutes.

Name Change

Frequently Asked Questions about Name Change in Maryland
To change the name of a child or minor a petition for name change needs to be filed in Maryland circuit court in the county where the child is a resident.
A person can change his or her name for any reason. The only condition for a name change is that the name change must not be for any illegal or fraudulent purpose and the new name must not interfere with the rights of others.
As part of a divorce, a party can ask the court for an order to resume using his or her prior name.
Any person may file an objection to a petition to change the name of another person.

Paternity

To disestablish paternity means to overturn or rescind all rights and obligations of the legal father. Your options to disestablish paternity will depend on how paternity was established in the first place.
Establishing paternity is the process of determining who is the legal father of a child.
Establishing paternity is the process of determining who is the legal father of a child. To disestablish paternity means to overturn or rescind all rights and obligations of the legal father. This article addresses frequently asked questions about paternity.