The Family Law Self Help Center will be closed on January 17th 2013 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for training.
Location: Judicial Center, Room 224
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Walk-in Service Only
(No intakes after 4 P.M. Completing intake by 3:00 P.M. recommended)
Spanish interpreter available Wednesdays, from Noon to 4:00 P.M.
What is the Family Law Self Help Center?
If you begin a case as the plaintiff, or are brought into a case as a defendant, and you do not have a lawyer representing you, then you are "pro se"; that is, you are representing yourself, and you are responsible for navigating the court system, following its rules and time deadlines, and learning what you need to do to accomplish your goals. Without a lawyer, no one is going to do this for you.
The Family Law Self Help Center is a FREE walk-in clinic, staffed by attorneys, which provides either general legal information or limited legal advice, in family law disputes involving divorce, custody, visitation, and child support.
If you wish to represent yourself in a family law matter, the Family Law Self Help Center can help determine which family law forms are the most appropriate, help with the completion of the forms, provide information on how to navigate the system, and the law in general.
Please note that whether you receive advice, help with forms, or general information that applies to everyone, will depend first on your income eligibility using established state-wide income guidelines, and secondly, on the complexity of your case.
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Which Cases are Appropriate for the Family Law Self Help Center?
The Family Law Self Help Center is designed to assist individuals who want to represent themselves in SIMPLE family matters only. If the family law matter is too complex, or otherwise inappropriate for the Center (e.g., domestic violence, exceptions, emergency petitions, guardianships, contested matters, or complex property or support issues), a staff attorney will attempt to refer the client to an appropriate agency or program. Individuals with contested or complex cases should retain their own attorneys.
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The Family Law Self Help Center is not a Substitute for an Attorney
For example, Center attorneys:
- DO NOT represent clients.
- DO NOT file paperwork for clients.
- DO NOT go to court with clients or help them try their cases.
- DO NOT call, write letters, or otherwise communicate with opposing parties, attorneys, or judges.
- DO NOT help individuals who already have an attorney.
Self-Representation is not for everyone!
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Some Common Errors
The following are mistakes commonly found in self-represented cases:
ERROR: Papers are mailed by certified mail and someone other than the responding party signs for them.
In order to be valid, service by certified mail must be restricted delivery; that is, only the responding party can sign for the papers.
ERROR: The party requesting relief fails to serve the summons on the other side.
The summons must be served along with copies of all papers filed (exception-contempt cases in which the show cause order must be served). The filing party has the responsibility to ensure that the summons is served on the other party.
ERROR: The party requesting relief fails to attach the summons to the affidavit of service when filing it with the court.
A copy of the summons served on the other side must be attached to an affidavit of service and returned to the court in order for service to be complete.
ERROR: The responding party writes a letter to the judge that does not include a certificate of mailing. A letter without a "certificate of mailing" will not be accepted as an Answer in Montgomery County.
It is recommended that the responding party use the "Answer" form (Dom. Rel. Form 50), provided in the Domestic Relations Forms, available online.
ERROR: The responding party does not specifically admit or deny individual allegations in the complaint/petition/motion.
The Answer filed must contain a specific response admitting or denying each individual allegation.
ERROR: The responding party fails to sign the Answer form and/or the Certificate of Service.
The responding party must sign both the Answer form and the Certificate of Service to certify that a copy of the Answer was mailed to the opposing party.
ERROR: The party requesting a divorce appears for the hearing without a corroborating witness, or the corroborating witness' testimony is insufficient or inadequate.
Even if you and your spouse signed a separation agreement under oath, you need at least one corroborating witness who can testify for you and confirm the statements and allegations in your divorce complaint.
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ATTENTION ATTORNEYS: The Family Law Self Help Center Needs Your Help!
Montgomery County Circuit Court’s Family Law Self Help Center is looking for attorneys to volunteer to help self-representing individuals in family law matters with legal information and/or legal advice.
You can help in one of two ways:
- Impromptu Volunteering: If you happen to be at the Courthouse and have a little time to spare, stop by and see one, or maybe two, clients. We almost always have a backlog of clients waiting to be seen during lunch hours (12:00p.m. – 2:00p.m.), and could use your assistance.
- Scheduled Volunteering: If you have more time to spare, or prefer a more structured arrangement, please contact Madeleine Jones, MJones@mcccourt.com, or stop by and consult with the Family Law Self Help Center staff. In that way, we can let you know when the Center will be shorthanded and can most use your valuable assistance.
The Family Law Self Help Center is located in Room 224 of the Circuit Court building (Judicial Center, 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD).
Please be assured that you are under no obligation to take anyone on as a client.
Family Law Self Help Center service hours can be reported as Pro Bono hours to the Court of Appeals.
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