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Frequently Asked Questions

The following instructions were taken from General Instructions: For use with All DOM REL Forms (Maryland Department of Family Administration, Administrative Office of the Courts).  They have been modified to reflect Montgomery County Circuit Court requirements.  Please read these instructions before you file your papers.

IF YOUR CASE IS NOT HANDLED PROPERLY, YOU CAN LOSE TIME AND MONEY, AND POSSIBLY, IMPORTANT LEGAL RIGHTS!

Do I Need A Lawyer?

Where Can I Find Legal Services?

Where Can I Find Forms?

Where Should I File My Forms?

How Do I Start?

If You Are Filing a Complaint, Petition, or Motion

If You Are Filing an Answer

How Much Will This Cost?

What Is Service and How Do I Serve Someone?

If You Are Serving a Complaint, Petition or Motion

What Happens If Service Is Not Made?

What Happens If Service Is Not Achieved?

If You Are Serving an Answer

How Do I Get A Hearing Date?

What Happens In Court?

What If I Still Have Questions After Reading Step-by-Step Instructions for Self-Representing?

For an online resource for self-help, selfhelpsupport.org can be a valuable source of information to an individual who is representing him/herself.

Do I Need a Lawyer?
The answer is probably YES and particularly so if:

You may also need a lawyer if, after reading these instructions, you feel unable to file your case. You can consult with a lawyer at any time during the course of your case, BUT hiring a lawyer at the last minute usually will not be grounds for a postponement and many lawyers will not take a case at the last minute.

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Where Can I Find Legal Services?
In simple, uncontested cases, the Family Law Self Help Center (located in the South Tower 1st floor, room 1500 of the Circuit Court) and the Legal Forms Helpline (1-800-818-9888 and 1-877-293-2507 (Spanish)) provide free assistance with the forms. For information on how to find a lawyer, call the Lawyer Referral Service at (301) 279-9100.

NOTE: The Clerk of the Court or other court representative cannot provide legal advice and cannot assist you in the selection of the proper form(s) or aid you in completing the form(s).

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Where Can I Find Forms?
Domestic Relations Forms  (Dom. Rel. Forms) are available for free at the Family Department Window located on the 1st floor (South Tower 1st floor, Room 1460) of the Montgomery County Circuit Court. They are also available online in English and Spanish through the Maryland Department of Family Administration‘s website

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Where Should I File My Forms?
All family law cases are filed in the Circuit Court except for a Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence which can be filed in the Circuit Court or District Court.  There are Circuit Courts and District Courts in Baltimore City and all counties of the state. Please make sure that you file in the proper Court. Filing in the wrong court can result in dismissal of your case.

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How Do I Start?
Read and follow the instructions below to start your case.

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What if I am Filing a Complaint, Petition, or Motion?
If you are filing a Complaint, Petition, or Motion, you have some choices:

If there is an earlier case filed between you and the other side in one county, you may be required to file your current case/request in that county. However, there are circumstances that may allow a change of filing location. This is a situation that probably requires a lawyer's assistance.

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Where Do I File an Answer?
You must file in the county where the Complaint, Petition, or Motion was filed. If you believe the other side filed in the wrong county, you can ask the court to move the case to the appropriate county. This is a situation that requires a lawyer’s assistance.

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What Filing Fees will I have to Pay?
The following fees must be paid at the time of filing in order for your case to be processed:

The Court may decide that you don't have to pay these fees, in some cases, because you can't afford to pay or because of hardship. You may not have to pay other costs and fees depending upon the financial circumstances of the parties. To apply for a WAIVER OF PREPAYMENT OF FILING FEES, file Dom. Rel. Form 32 at the time you file your papers.

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What Is Service and How Do I Serve Someone?
Service is making certain the other side receives a copy of the papers you are filing. Service must be accomplished on the other side as described below or your case cannot go forward.  YOU CANNOT SERVE THE OTHER SIDE YOURSELF.

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How Do I Serve the Other Side With a Complaint, Petition Or Motion?
The Court will issue a Writ of Summons; you must make sure that the Writ of Summons is attached to a copy of the Complaint, Petition, or Motion. These papers must be served on the other side along with any other forms you have filed, such as a Domestic Case Information Report or a Financial Statement. Service can be made one of several ways:

Service by Sheriff
You can have the Sheriff’s Office serve the other side if he/she lives in Montgomery County. 

Service By Private Process
There are two ways to serve someone by private process:

(1) By a private process serving company for a fee. This method is often fast and is also good if the other side is hard to locate.

(2) By an adult over the age of 18. This is an inexpensive way to serve someone. THE PRIVATE PROCESS SERVER CANNOT BE YOU.  You CANNOT serve the papers yourself.

Service by Certified Mail (Restricted Delivery And Return Receipt Requested)
This is a good method of service if the other side lives far from you. It does require that the other side accept the papers and personally sign the post office receipt card (green card).

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What Happens If Service Is Not Achieved (not successfully completed)?
There may have to be several attempts to serve the other side by using different methods. A Writ of Summons is only good for 60 days. You will have to ask the Clerk of Court in writing to issue a new Writ of Summons if the other side has not been served within 60 days. If several attempts to serve the other side have been unsuccessful you will probably need an attorney.

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What Happens If Service Is Achieved (successfully completed)?
The other party has to file an answer within a specified time defined as follows:

Specified time other party has to file an answer
If your spouse is served: Your spouse should answer within:
In Maryland 30 days after service
In another state 60 days after service
Outside the United States 90 days after service

If your spouse has not filed an answer by the required time, file a Request for Order of Default (Dom.Rel. 54).

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How Do I Serve the Other Side with my Answer to a Complaint, Petition or Motion?
You MUST mail a copy of the Answer and a copy of everything you are filing to the other side.

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How Do I Get A Hearing Date?
A hearing date is automatically scheduled in Montgomery County when you file an Affidavit of Service, when the Sheriff files a Return of Service, or when the other party files an Answer.  To make sure that you get all notices and papers in your case, always update the Clerk of Court, and the other side, with your current mailing address. Notify the Clerk of Court and the other side immediately in writing if you move. 

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What Happens In Court?

If you have to miss your court date because of an emergency, call the Family Division Masters department (240-777-9054) BEFORE you are scheduled to be in court.

Before the day your case is scheduled:

On the day your case is scheduled:

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What If I still Have Questions After Reading Step-by-Step Instructions for Self-Representing

If you have questions about processing the forms or are unsure about whether it is wise to handle your case without a lawyer:

The Family Law Self Help Center is located in the South Tower 1st floor, Rm 1500 of the Judicial Center, 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850, and operates Monday through Friday (except Court holidays) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Family Law Self Help Center and the Legal Forms Helpline provide services free of charge.

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Montgomery County Circuit Court
50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850
Office Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM