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January 24, 2010

Howard County Circuit Court Roadmap for Contested Family Law Cases

As a Maryland Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer in Howard County, I thought it would be helpful to discuss some important information about how contested domestic relations cases are handled in our county. In compliance with Maryland Rule 16-202, Howard County has adopted a Family Law Differentiated Case Management Plan. This plan sets forth a specific course of action for divorce and other family law matters so that they can be resolved in timely manner. The goal is to resolve most cases within twelve months and the remainder within 18 months of filing.

In most contested domestic relations cases, the court will hold a scheduling conference which will be set 30-45 days after a complaint and answer are filed. These scheduling conferences are held in the court house on Fridays. The Howard County family law coordinator presides. A scheduling order will be generated that may include referral to professional service providers such as parenting classes or mediation; appointment of an attorney for a child or children, custody evaluation, Master's Hearing date and setting discovery deadlines.

The family law coordinator must also determine the complexity to the case. More complex cases may require a longer discovery schedule. Cases that meet the criteria for complexity may be eligible for extension of discovery deadlines.

The differentiated case management plan for Howard County also provides for settlement conferences that will usually be conducted by a retired judge. These are set after discovery has been completed. If a case does not settle, the parties will go directly to case the management office to schedule a trial date on the merits.