Co-Parenting Skills Enhancement will be ordered, where appropriate, for parties involved in family litigation.  The Co-Parenting Skills Enhancement classes are comprised of two three hour sessions during which the parties are educated on the emotional impact of divorce/family reorganization on children, as well as the developmental stages of childhood and how children experience family reorganization at different stages. Parents are also given tools to help them improve their communication with each other and their children, thereby removing the children from adult conflict.  The class also gives parents ideas for developing constructive parenting agreements. The Co-Parenting Skills Enhancement is also available for non-English speakers. The online class is free to litigants.  

Custody/Visitation Mediation is ordered at the Scheduling Hearing and consists of a single three-hour mediation session.  The goal of mediation is to develop an agreement for the care and custody of the children, or to create a visitation plan, if this is an area of controversy. Cases in which parties are represented by attorneys, counsel is required to attend the mediation session. By having counsel involved in the process, agreements reached can immediately be filed with the court.  Mediation sessions are confidential.

Child Custody Evaluations and Assessments are conducted by the Office of Court Evaluators.  In high conflict cases or in cases where there are allegations of such things as domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness, criminal records or alcohol abuse, the Court may order the parties to participate in a custody evaluation or assessment.  During both an evaluation and an assessment, the Court Evaluator will interview each party, conduct home visits with the parties and the child (ren) at their respective home, assess the needs of the child(ren) and determine the extent to which the child(ren) have been involved in the conflict.  An evaluation is a more in depth evaluation of a family, during which the Court Evaluator will review multiple documents made available, such as the child(ren)’s school records, therapy/medical reports, criminal records and Child Welfare reports.  The Evaluator will also interview persons with knowledge of the family either via telephone or in person. The parents are encouraged to note areas of agreement such as those related to visitation schedules, holidays, and decision-making with regard to medical and educational preferences.  The Evaluator will provide a written report of the evaluation to parties/counsel several days prior to the Settlement Conference and will also file the report, for review by appropriate court personnel only, in the case file. 

Adoption Home Studies are conducted by the Court Evaluators and may be ordered in a variety of situations, including private placement, stepparent, and extended family situations.  Post placement studies are usually conducted in foreign adoption placements where the petitioners have guardianship with the right to adopt or when re-adoption is sought in the United States.  The Court Evaluator provides a written report with a recommendation regarding the adoption that is filed in the court file. 

Adoption Home Study Reviews are conducted by the Court Evaluator when home studies and post placement reports have been prepared by a licensed child placement agency.  Home studies are reviewed for accuracy and completeness, supplemented where necessary by contact with the agencies, and a brief memo is submitted to the Judge. If the home study and accompanying post placement report is over a year old, the Court Evaluator will update the information by meeting with the family in their home or virtually, when necessary.  A report will be generated and submitted to the court.

The Family Law Self Help Center is a free walk-in clinic staffed by attorneys and a legal assistant.  The Clinic provides general legal information and limited legal advice in family law matters such as divorce, custody, visitation, and child support.  If a family law matter is too complex or otherwise inappropriate for the center (e.g. domestic violence, name changes, or complex property issues), the center will attempt to make appropriate referrals to other providers. A party will receive information or advice depending on their income and whether an attorney of the Family Law Self Help Center has already met with the opposing party.

The Family Law Self Help Center is located on the first floor of the Judicial Center, in Room1500.  Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  The Center offers walk in service, appointments, and assistance via telephone. 




Facilitators are practicing attorneys paid by the Court who offer immediate alternative dispute resolution to litigants after referral from the court. Facilitators are chosen from a list of experienced counsel approved by the Administrative Judge and the Family Division Magistrates.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is available to parties to settle property issues.  ADR is conducted by practicing attorneys with substantial expertise in the domestic field.  Selection of the ADR mediator is from an approved list designated by the Administrative Judge and maintained by the Special Magistrate.

Best Interest Attorney may be appointed by the Court to specifically represent the best interests of the child(ren) of the parties.  Only attorneys having completed the approved course of training will be considered for appointment in the capacity of BIA.  In most cases, the cost of this representation will be borne by the litigants.

Child Privilege Attorney may be appointed as a neutral guardian to act for a child in waiving or asserting the psychiatrist-patient privilege.  This type of appointment is frequently referred to as a Nagle v. Hooks appointment and derives its name from the Maryland case requiring this representation to protect the child’s best interests. In most cases, the cost of this representation will be borne by the litigants.

Psychological Evaluations are conducted by private practitioners in the community and the expense of the testing and evaluation is borne by the parties. Participation may be ordered by the Court upon motion of the parties or upon recommendation of the staff of the Office of Court Evaluations.  Psychological evaluations may be sought when it becomes apparent during the Custody Assessment that the Court will benefit from the more in-depth Custody/Visitation Evaluation with psychological testing as an adjunct to arriving at a decision in the best interests of the child(ren).

Psychological Evaluations and/or Therapy may be ordered by the Court during the pendency of a case when there is a demonstrated immediate and significant concern.  Ongoing therapy may be ordered as part of the ultimate decision in a contested custody/visitation case.

Private Custody Evaluations may be permitted by the Court under certain circumstances and are conducted by privately retained psychologists,  psychiatrists or social workers Custody evaluations conducted by psychologists may include relevant testing to assist in determination of custody issues in the best interests of the child(ren). Referrals may be made during initial case proceedings or with regard to a change of custody or modification of visitation issues. The cost of a private custody evaluation is borne by the litigants.

House of Ruth/Abused Persons Program provide legal representation in protective order hearings to victims of domestic violence who have been abused by an intimate partner (i.e., current or former spouse, current or, past boyfriend, girlfriend, or an individual who has a child in common with the victim). Services provided include court appearances, filing of protective and peace orders, appeals, modifications, civil contempt, and criminal accompaniments.  

Genetic Testing is available when paternity is at issue.  Testing is done through the Office of Child Support Enforcement, and must be by Court Order.

Supervised Visitation is offered without cost to the parties.  Each participating family is given six visits over the course of three months.  Visits, which occur on the weekends, are each one hour and thirty minutes in length, with an additional fifteen minutes before and after each session for transfer and feedback.  When the Court orders supervised visitation, a review hearing is also scheduled in approximately 120 days to assess the progress of the parties and determine the parameters of future visitation.