Maryland's Family Divisions are a Model for Change
Trends in State Courts: Special Focus on Family Law and Court Communications, 2016
8 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016 Last revised: 30 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2016
In fiscal year 2014, 43 percent of all cases filed in Maryland’s trial court of general jurisdiction (the circuit court) were family law cases (Court Operations Department, 2014: CC-5). Historically, Maryland courts, like many states’ family justice systems, lacked a uniform structure to consolidate family law issues for an individual family. As a result, families often faced multiple hearings before different judges in different courtrooms to address a variety of issues, such as divorce, domestic violence, delinquency, and child abuse/neglect.
This system created tremendous hardship for families (particularly low-income families, many of whom were self-represented litigants) and resulted in fragmented service delivery and inconsistent decision making.
Through the leadership and dedication of former Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, in 1998 the judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals signed Maryland Rule 16-204 (see Babb, 2013: 1126). This rule created family divisions in the circuit courts of Maryland’s five largest jurisdictions and transformed how Maryland courts handle family law cases.
Keywords: Maryland, Maryland Rule 16-204, Family Divisions, Maryland Circuit Courts
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation