Family Services Program
Family Support Services Coordinator
The Following Services and Programs Are Now Available to the Circuit Court for Washington County
- Courthouse Family Law Clinic/Self-Help Assistance
- Co-Parenting Seminars
- Custody Evaluations/Home Studies
- Attorneys For Minor Children
- Mental Health/Custody Assessments
- Parent Coordination
- Mediation Services
- Supervised Visitation
- Substance Abuse Evaluation
- Legal Resources
Courthouse Family Law Clinic/Self-Help Assistance
The Courthouse Family Law Clinic has been available to citizens of Washington County since July, 1997. This clinic is provided through a contract with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (“MVLS”). Walk-in services are available every Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in which an MVLS attorney is available within courthouse room 229, to assist self-represented litigants who meet the income eligibility. Legal advice is provided in family law matters for which domestic relation forms exist. For individuals whose income exceeds MVLS guidelines, the attorney will identify the issues and provide the appropriate forms.
The purpose of the co-parenting seminars is to give parents skills to mitigate the effects of the family dissolution on their children, and provide strategies to communicate and make decisions together on behalf of the children. The seminar is ordered by the Court in contested custody and access cases, and requires the parties to contact directly, one of the available providers.
Select one of the following providers:
- The Washington County Family Center-- 301-790-4002, contact directly to register for the free “Positive Parenting” seminar. Topics include, but are not limited to: Handling Stress and Anger, Child Development, Morals and Values, Parenting and Alcohol/Drug Use, and Alternatives to Spanking. This six week class is offered on Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A certificate is issued to the participants that complete the course.
- 6-hour Online Parenting Program -- The cost of the online service is $75. Enter your information and pay using PayPal or a major credit card. Discounted programs are available to income eligible parents. Classes also offered in Spanish. A certificate is issued to the participants that complete the course.
Custody Evaluations/Home Studies
Often in contested custody cases, an investigation involving the competing homes, the parents, and the minor(s) is valuable to a Judge when determining the best interest of the child or children. The Circuit Court for Washington County has seen an increase in the need for this service and anticipates further increase in the future.
Private contractors conduct home studies. Court Orders direct the parties to contact the private contractors to schedule appointments to meet with them individually. All parties are observed at least once interacting with the child(ren) involved. Extensive history data is collected on each party, and background searches are conducted on all persons within each household. Each home study is usually completed within 60 days. In emergency circumstances a home study could be completed in 30 days. The cost of the home study is $350.00 per party. If the Family Law Fund is to pay the cost of the home study, that payment is subject to court ordered reimbursement.
Attorneys For Minor Children
In contested custody cases the Court, by way of a motion filed by one of the parties, may order an attorney to represent a child's best interest or to be a child's privilege attorney. The parties are ultimately responsible for payment of the fees for the minor child’s attorney. However, payment upon waiver can be made through the Family Law Fund, and that payment is subject to court ordered reimbursement.
Mental Health/Custody Assessments
Mental health/custody assessments are conducted by a licensed clinical social worker. The social worker meets with each parent and child(ren) individually and jointly, and, following professional guidelines, timely submits a report to the Court. The parties are responsible for payment of the social worker's fee, as ordered by the Court. If parties are income eligible, payment can be made by the Family Law Fund, subject to court ordered reimbursement.
Parent coordinators are experienced, licensed mental health professionals trained to work with high conflict divorcing/estranged parents as a neutral third party. The purpose of parent coordination is to minimize children's exposure to parents' conflict by assisting parents in developing and implementing agreements that meet the children’s' needs for health development and reasonable access to each parent. The Court orders parent coordination in high conflict divorce/custody cases, and the parties are responsible for payment of the fees of parent coordinators.
When appropriate, the Circuit Court for Washington County will order parties in contested child access/child support, marital property, and/or alimony cases to resolve their disputes through mediation. "Mediation" as defined in Maryland Rule 17-102(d), is the process in which the parties appear before an impartial mediator, who through the application of standard mediation techniques generally accepted within the professional community and without providing legal advice, assists the parties in reaching their own voluntary agreement for the resolution of all or part of their dispute. The mediator helps parents develop a parenting plan, make important decisions and reach agreements that are in the best interest of their child(ren).
Washington County has a list of mediators approved to conduct mediation involving child access disputes. Mediators will conduct one 2-hour Court-ordered session, with a possible second session at the discretion of the mediator. The cost is $200 per hour, to be paid in equal shares by the parties. The cost may be provided through the Family Law Fund for income eligible parties, subject to court ordered reimbursement.
The Circuit Court for Washington County has one program for supervised visitation. The provider is through state-funded agencies and is limited in the number of persons who will be able to utilize the service.
The Parent-Child Center, Inc. provides court ordered supervised visitation. Once a party has an order for supervised visitation, it is their responsibility to contact the Parent-Child Center at 301-791-2224, to establish a schedule for and location of the visitations. The cost of the supervised visitation is $25 per hour per child, to be paid by the party utilizing the service.
Substance Abuse Evaluation
The Circuit Court for Washington County has a state-approved provider that conducts substance abuse evaluations and submits reports to the Court. In child access cases, the Court may order persons to receive evaluations. Parties are responsible for the costs of the substance abuse evaluations. The costs may be provided through the Family Law Fund for income eligible parties, subject to court ordered reimbursement.
Family Law Hotline (provides limited legal service): 1-800-845-8550
Lawyer Referral: 1-800-649-1090
Legal Aid Bureau: 1-800-999-8904 or 301-694-7414
Legal Forms Helpline (assists with pro se forms): 1-800-818-9888
Maryland Volunteer Legal Services : 1-800-510-0050
Washington County Child Protection Services (DSS): 240-420-2222