How to Start your Maryland Child Custody and Visitation Case

MIKE BARRET

Founder/Owner THE FIRM, LLC

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If you desire to have to Custody of your child; or you are not seeking custody but want to have visitation (now called child access) with your child, there are certain steps that must be taken to start your case.

This brief article will discuss the steps everyone must take if filing for child custody or child visitation in Maryland.

1. Filing for child custody or visitation.

There are two (2) basic items necessary to commence your case…

a. Complaint for Child Custody or Visitation: A Maryland Child Custody or Child Visitation case starts with submitting a Complaint for Child Custody or Complaint for Child Visitation in the county of the state of proper jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction on a child is proper in the home state of the child: the state where the child presently resides. If the child has been living in a state for less than six (6) months, the Court will have to decide if they will accept the case, or defer to the jurisdiction of the state where the child resided last for at least six (6) months.

The Uniformed Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) have rules that govern where your Maryland Child Custody or Visitation case may be filed. The proper place for a child custody case to be heard will be the home state of the child, as defined by the UCCJEA.

b. Filing fee: At the time of filing your Maryland Child Custody or Visitation Complaint, you must submit your filing fee to the Clerks.

For current filing fees, contact the Court or check the court website. You may file for a fee waiver, if you do not have the money. However, most fee waivers are rejected.

To ensure your Complaint for Child Custody or Visitation will be accepted, it is advisable to pay the Child Custody Complaint filing fee in lieu of requesting a waiver. If you would like the Sherriff to serve the Complaint on the other parent, you must pay an additional fee to have the Sherriff serve the other parent with the Maryland Child Custody or Visitation Complaint.

Again, contact the Court or check the court website for current fees.

2. Service on the Defendant.

Due process requires a Defendant be notified that a Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint has been filed against him/her.

As such, the Maryland Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint filed by you must be served on the Defendant. You may have the Sherriff attempt to deliver the Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint to the other parent; or hire/ask someone to serve the for you.

Once the divorce Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint has been served/delivered, a document called an Affidavit of Service must be completed by the person who served the Maryland Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint. This completed Affidavit of Service is then filed with the Court.

If service of the Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint is being sent by certified mail, with signed returned receipt, you must ask another person to mail this Complaint for you.

Once the Defendant is served he/she has thirty (30) days to respond if they are living in state of Maryland. The Defendant has sixty (60) days to respond if they are living in another State, and ninety (90) days to respond if they reside outside the United States.

If the Defendant fails to respond to the Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint within the time mentioned above, you may file a Request for an Order of Default with the Court.

On the other hand, if your spouse files a response to your Child Custody Complaint or Child Visitation Complaint, the Court will set the case in for a date for you, and the other parent to appear to discuss all the issues in your case.

This is only the initial Court Hearing. There will be other dates set in the future, if the case isn’t settled. Along with the Answer, the other parent may also file their own Child Custody Complaint against you in the same case.

This is known as a Counter-Complaint (Counterclaim) against you. If this happens, you are required to file an Answer to their Counter against you.

Legal Disclaimer: The above information is created for general information purposes only. As such, the information and contents should not be deemed formal legal advice; nor does the information and contents create a lawyer/client relationship between any party and the editors/creators”. We encourage persons accessing the Newsletter to seek the advice of counsel to discuss their specific legal issues/situation.

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