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New Rule Changes "Masters" to "Magistrates"


A new rule adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals changes the title of masters who hear family law matters to “family magistrates.” What is a family magistrate? Richard Maslow, Family Magistrate, Circuit Court for Allegany County, explains:

A family magistrate is an officer of the Circuit Court who is selected by the judges of that court to hear certain family law and juvenile cases, including the following:
Family law:

  • uncontested divorce, annulment or alimony
  • alimony pendente lite (while the case is pending)
  • child support pendente lite
  • support of dependents
  • preliminary or pendente lite possession or use of the family home or family-use personal property
  • pendente lite custody of or visitation with children
  • modification of custody of or visitation with children
  • constructive civil contempt related to custody, visitation, alimony, support, or use and possession
  • modification of orders for alimony, support, use and possession
  • counsel fees and assessment of court costs in any matter referred to the magistrate
  • stay of an earnings withholding order
  • other family law matters pursuant to the court's case management plan

Juvenile law:

  • child in need of assistance (CINA)
  • child in need of supervision (CINS)
  • delinquency

Maryland's Constitution permits Circuit Court judges to appoint officers for their courts. (Article IV, Section 9) Before the new rule took effect on March 15, 2015, family magistrates were known by several different terms around the state: master in chancery, master, family law master, domestic equity master, juvenile division master, family division master, master-juvenile and domestic relations, domestic relations master, and master for juvenile causes.

(The term “magistrate” has not been in use in Maryland's state courts since the District Court was created more than 40 years ago.)

After a family magistrate hears a case and makes a recommendation, a judge reviews the evidence and the recommendation before making the final decision.

Read more:

  • Rule 1-501, changing the title to “family magistrate” on a statewide basis (effective March 15, 2015)

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