About Forms and Filings
The business of law is transacted in large part by forms and filings (documents). Almost every legal action begins with a form: filing for divorce; transferring property; forming a business corporation; making a contract; filing a complaint; etc. However, only a small number of legal actions have standard fill-in-the-blank forms in Maryland. For most legal actions, a patron must find information about formatting and content, and structure their own document.
Often, when a patron asks for a form, they are hoping there is a simple one-pager with blanks to fill in, like filling out an emergency contact form for your child's school. The patron may also believe that the action they intend to take is easy, simple, and can be addressed in such a one-pager. This is sadly rarely the case. As librarians, it is our job to try to identify generally what the patron would like the form to address (via the reference interview), and to point them to resources that will help them choose for themselves a form or sample form and draft their own document. There are many sources of forms and information about forms, so even though we cannot determine the perfect form for them (see the module on Legal Information vs. Legal Advice), we have an opportunity to point them helpfully and effectively.
Types of Forms
- Some forms are standardized by courts or by statute. This means that the governing body (court or legislature) has developed a specific look for the form, with those highly-desired blanks to be filled in. These include many forms for District Court and family law in Circuit Court, as well as a Power of Attorney form (standardized by Md. Code, Estates & Trusts Article, Title 17).
- Some "forms" are more unrestricted in their content, allowing flexibility to accommodate many possibilities. These includes actions like more complicated motions and complaints, wills, contracts and leases.
- Some forms are filed with a court; some do not need to be filed with a court to take effect.
Fortunately, there are many sources of information on forms and formatting for Maryland legal documents and filings. The best starting places are linked on the Maryland Public Library Toolkit. See the Toolkit at 11.State Judicial Law, Part D: Forms
Last revised 07/18/2018