What is the process for conducting a divorce case in Baltimore County?
Divorce cases in Baltimore County are heard in Baltimore County’s Circuit Court, located in Towson, Maryland. The court has established a Differentiated Case Management Plan which governs the process of a divorce case in Baltimore County.
When the divorce case is filed, the parties file a case information report. That form advises the court of what issues there are in the case and what matters are contested. If it is an “uncontested divorce,” one in which the parties have resolved all their issues by means of a marital settlement agreement, the matter is conducted very quickly and assigned in short order to a master who hears the uncontested divorce. The uncontested divorce can be conducted within 90 days of when the complaint is filed and served on the other party.
If the case is contested, after the complaint is filed, the other party files an answer, in which the various allegations of the complaint are either admitted or denied. Approximately 30 days after it is answered, the case is assigned for a settlement/scheduling conference. The conference has several purposes. It provides an early opportunity for the parties to settle some or all of the issues in their case. It allows the court to determine what issues are contested and to establish a schedule for the case. The court also determines if there is a need for any mediation or custody investigation services relating to the children. At that conference, some issues may be settled before a master of the court. If the entire case is not settled, the attorneys and parties agree on dates for hearings, the pre-trial settlement conference, and the final divorce hearing.
There is a process for having a “pendente lite” hearing, or a temporary hearing, to decide issues while the case is pending. Those issues can include alimony, child custody, child support, and child access, among others. The master conducts a brief hearing and decides those issues during the period of time while the case is proceeding.
After the scheduling conference, there then is a period of time in which the parties conduct “discovery.” This includes written questions (called “Interrogatories”) which each party sends to the other. Those questions are answered under oath within 30 days. The parties can also request documents from each other and conduct a “deposition,” an oral examination under oath conducted by the opposing attorney. After discovery is concluded, the court conducts a settlement conference at which a judge of the court attempts to encourage the parties to settle the issues. If that is unsuccessful, the case is then scheduled for trial. The entire process takes approximately 8-12 months, depending on complexity of the case.
The parties also have the right to conduct a mediation outside of the court. Such a mediation is highly recommended, as the parties may be able to reach their own resolution, at substantial savings of time and expense for both of them. The best resolution of the case is when the parties can determine a result with which they both are satisfied. If they are unsuccessful, then the court will decide all contested issues at a trial, a process which is both expensive and stressful.
Baltimore County divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles have been helping Maryland residents with family law matters for more than 30 years. To schedule your free consultation, call (443) 589-0150 or submit an online inquiry form.