Maryland Courts

Frequently Asked Questions - General

Where can I find information about legal issues?
We highly recommend visiting the Peoples-Law Library website. Maryland's Peoples Law Library (PLL) is a legal information and self-help website maintained by the Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, and supported by Maryland's non-profit legal services providers. 

Can I represent myself in a circuit court case?
An attorney is professionally obligated to do what is best for you, the client. For that reason, it is always advisable to use an attorney. Sometimes, especially if you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you might be eligible for free or reduced-cost legal services. Courts offer some self-help services that will provide you with additional assistance and information. For more information on free or reduced-cost legal services or the self help services available, go to the Peoples-Law Library webiste. They also have a useful quiz to help you decide if you might be successful handling a case on your own.

Peoples-Law Library (self-help)
Peoples-Law Library (free of reduced cost)

In Calvert County, assistance with a family law matter is available on the second floor of the Courthouse every Wednesday from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. Assistance is offered on a first come, first served basis. Sign-up begins at 8:30 am. Other assistance is available through the Family Law Hotline: operated every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00-4:30 @ 800-845-8550; Pro Se Hotline (Women's Law Center) can assist with completing forms. Hours are Tuesday 9:00-12:30, Wednesday 9:00-12:30 and 4:00-7:00 pm, Thursday 9:00-4:00, and Friday 9:00-12:30 at 800-818-9888. Click here for more information.

Are there forms to file cases in the circuit court?
Except for common Family Law matters, the answer is generally no. Because there are fewer forms to use, you might want to look at sample complaints. Your local law library has some books, but you should remember that these samples do not fit every individual case. You will have to write your complaint on your own or hire the services of an attorney.

The Peoples-Law Library has some useful information for filing a case.

Family Law forms can be found here. Please read the general instructions.

What are the costs and fees?

Circuit Court charges, costs, and fees established under courts article 7-202.

Fee Schedule
Fee Summary Chart
Land Records Fee Schedule

Can I pay with a debit or credit card?
Unfortunately, at this time the answer is no. The Administrative Office of the Courts is developing a statewide cashiering system that will include a module for debit/credit card services. Until that system is rolled out, unless the court already had a contract for the use of credit/debit cards in place, Clerk's offices may not add those additional services. You may pay with cash, check, or money order.

I forgot my court date. How do I find out when it is?
You can look up the case online at CaseSearch. Court dates should appear under Court Scheduling Information. You can also call the Clerk's Office at 410-535-1600 ext. 2268 or 2404 (Civil) or ext. 2270 (Criminal).

I have a conflict with a court date. How can I request to have the date postponed?
You will need to submit the request in writing and it must comply with the general provisions for pleadings in Maryland Rules 1-301 through 1-361. Make sure that you include a description of the good reason you have to make the request. You will have to include a certificate of service, which is a certificate stating that you have sent a copy of your motion/request to postpone to all the other parties or their attorneys in the case (Rule 1-323). It certifies when and how you served the other party with the motion. Allow plenty of time for the other party to respond. Remember that the court may still refuse to change the date.

What might happen if I fail to appear for a scheduled trial date?
If you are the Plaintiff in the case, your case could be dismissed. If you are the defendant in a civil or family law matter, the plaintiff could ask the presiding judge to enter a "default judgment" against you in their favor. A writ of attachment could be issued for you. A writ of attachment is a court order commanding the sheriff to arrest a person who is in contempt of court. If you are the defendant in a criminal case, a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest.

Where can I find Court Records or Judgments/Liens online?
CaseSearch provides internet access to information from Maryland case records as described in the Maryland Rules on Access to Court Records (Rules 16-1001 through 16-1011). In January 2006, CaseSearch was introduced to satisfy information requests commonly received in the court clerks' offices. This information includes names of parties, city and state, case number, date of birth, trial date, charge, and case disposition. CaseSearch includes detailed case information for all Maryland Circuit and District Court Case Management Systems. CaseSearch is not the official court record. Non-public or otherwise confidential information should not be available on CaseSearch. CaseSearch should not be used for criminal background checks. Background checks should be conducted through the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) of the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, which maintains Maryland's fingerprint-supported criminal identification records and criminal history record information. To learn more, see Background Checks on the Department's website.

A Judgment is a decision by a court of law that may include ordering someone to pay a certain amount of money. A Lien is an encumbrance on one person's property to secure a debt the property owner owes to another person. Indexed information such as defendant/plaintiff name, disposition of case, original date, status date, indexed date, etc., is available on CaseSearch. However, not all courts may be available.

For more information about CaseSearch, please go to: CaseSearch.

What do I do if some of the information appearing on CaseSearch seems incorrect?
If you believe information provided is inaccurate, please send written notice to the court where the original record was created or filed. For court locations and contact information, see:
Circuit Court
District Court

Can I get records removed from public inspection?
Most circuit court records are public, which means they cannot be removed from public inspection unless authorized by a Maryland statute or rule. However, there are three ways that information contained in a court record can be removed from public inspection: certain information in a record can be shielded, the record can be sealed, or the record can be expunged.

For more information on shielding case information and sealing case records, see the brochure regarding Public Access to Maryland Court Records at: http://www.mdcourts.gov/access/brochuresforms.html.

For more information on expunging records, see Expungment at: http://mdcourts.gov/expungement/index.html.

Where do I go to start child support? What services are available through the local office of child support? How can I contact the Bureau of Support Enforcement in Calvert County?
Information can be found at the Department of Human Services website.

Additional Contact Information for the Department of Social Services
Office of Child Support Enforcement
200 Duke Street
Goldstein District Court/Multi Service Center
Prince Frederick, MD 20678
800-332-6347 (Customer Service)

Automated Customer Service & Payment Information
800-723-9937
443-550-6985 (Facsimile)
443-550-6900 (Agency Main Telephone)

State's Attorney's Office
Child Support Unit
Courthouse
175 Main Street
Prince Frederick, MD 20678
410-535-1600

The following services are available through your local office of child support:
1. Searching for the other parent
2. Legally establishing paternity
3. Obtaining a court order for child support and health insurance
4. Collecting support payments
5. Enforcing the court order
6. Reviewing and adjusting the court ordered support amount

You have the right to obtain child support services in a timely manner. You can help by cooperating fully with your child support enforcement staff in any attempt they make on your behalf.

The following services are NOT available through your local office of child support enforcement.
Contact private counsel for help with these issues.
1. Divorce actions
2. Legal advice
3. Property settlements
4. Visitation and custody issues
5. Collection of private attorney's fees

Who is eligible for child support services?
Information can be found at the Department of Human Services website.

Any custodian of a minor child is eligible for services. This includes parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, court-appointed guardians, or others who are caring for a child. The services available include establishing paternity for their child(ren), establishing a court order for child support and/or medical support or collecting current or past due child support payments.

The non-custodial parent may apply for child support services to determine paternity of a child born out of wedlock, to sign up for voluntary wage withholding of child support, or to request modification of the child support ordered amount.

Where can I obtain information about establishing paternity for a child?

Information can be found at the Department of Human Serivces website.

Why do I have to pay for filing a Request for Modification if the case is still active?
Circuit Court charges, costs, and fees established under courts article 7-202.

Fee Schedule
Fee Summary Chart

How can I get assistance on filing my case?
For more information on filing a case, visit the People's Law Library.

For additional information on filing a family law matter in Calvert County, the following pages may be helpful:

Family Services
Self-representing Litigants
Family Law Orientation

How do I determine if I should file a case?
For more information on evaluating your situation, visit the People's Law Library.

How long will my case take from beginning to end?
The goal of the Court is to always have cases heard both expeditiously and timely. The standard for the State is to have 98% of all criminal cases disposed of in 6 months, civil cases in 18 months, juvenile delinquent in 90 days, 90% of domestic cases completed in 12 months and 98% within 24 months, 100% of Child in Need of Assistance Shelter cases in 30 days, Non-shelter in 60 days and 100% Termination of Parental Rights in 180 days. 

However, many factors will impact how long it takes to bring a case to trial. 
For example: What kind of case is it? Is the case contested or do the parties agree on all issues? Are there numerous parties or co-defendants in the case? Do any of those parties live outside of the State? Are any of the parties in the military? Are the parties responsive or do they delay in providing responses? Is the competency of one of the parties an issue? Is the matter relatively simple or are the merits of the case complex? Are the parties familiar with the Rules of Procedure or have they obtained the services of a Maryland attorney? Are there numerous requests for postponements? Are expert or other witnesses needed to testify? Will mediation be required? Could bankruptcy become an issue?

Hopefully, you can understand that it would be impossible for the Clerk's Office to tell you how long your case will take.

How can I appeal the circuit court's decision?
The Appeal Process can become quite complex and you should read the rules in order to evaluate your ability to manage the process with or without legal advice or counsel. Only those who are parties to a case can appeal. The party seeking to appeal must have been adversely affected by the judgment (ruling). A party cannot appeal from a judgment in his favor unless the ruling didn't grant all the relief sought. Cases originating in the Circuit Court are appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, the highest court. The Court of Appeals has the discretion to determine which cases it will or will not hear. Once the Court of Appeals decides or declines to review a case, there is no further review within the state court system. Review by a federal court may be available.

The appellant must first file a Notice of Appeal in a timely manner (generally, unless otherwise provided in the Rules or by law, within 30 days of the entry of the judgment or Order being appealed), pay the appropriate fees, order a transcript from the court reporter and pay for the transcript. The appellant may be required to post a supersedeas bond, as well.

Within 10 days after filing the Notice of Appeal with the appropriate circuit court, the appellant must also file a Civil Appeal Information form with the Clerk of the Court for the Court of Special Appeals. The process also involves preparing briefs, record extracts, and requires following specific requirements, time lines and rules for the submission of the material. The rules that govern this very detailed procedure begin with Maryland Rule 8-501.