Completing the Complaint for Absolute Divorce (with children), or do I really need a lawyer for this divorce?
A divorce in Frederick County, or anywhere else in Maryland is initiated when one spouse (Plaintiff) files a Complaint in the appropriate Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.
Persons wishing to represent themselves can use the Maryland Forms provided by the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts at the following link: https://www.courts.state.md.us/family/formsindex.html.
In the last article we described and explained how to complete the Domestic Relations Form 20 titled the “Complaint For Absolute Divorce” for divorce cases where custody of children is not an issue. In pertinent part, we covered all of the sections and pointed out that, if no children were the subject of the divorce, you could skip lines 6 through 10.
In this article I hope to explain lines 6-10 contained in the Maryland Circuit Court Domestic Relations Form 20 (Complaint for Absolute Divorce). Those sections of the form deal with the custody of children in a divorce.
If you are reading this, I will presume you are filing or contemplating a divorce with children. If that is the case, you will see that the Instructions Form which accompanies the actual divorce forms contains exhaustive disclaimers advising that you should consult an attorney if your case involves children.
Even if you choose not to use or consult an attorney, I will presume you are intelligent enough to know that you should. What could possibly be more important than your child(ren)? If you have consulted an attorney and desire to go forward without one, this article is not a substitute for true legal advice from an attorney in YOUR case. There are resources for private, sliding scale and free attorneys.
If you have no resources, the Frederick County Circuit Court has a free lawyer who conducts a legal clinic to help with your case two days per week. Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Services, The Heartly House are all there to help and that is only a few.
Line 5 of the Form DR 20 Complaint for Absolute Divorce asks the Plaintiff (who is intiating the case) to provide information about “related cases” and this section applies with our without children. By completing this section you are showing the court in good faith what other cases for you or your spouse might be important for the court to know about.
As we move into Lines 6, 7 and 8 there is a mandate that the Plaintiff provide the requested information to the court. It’s not an amorphous suggestion of good faith etc. Failure to provide this information can result in the Plaintiff’s case being dismissed.
Lines 6 is where you (Plaintiff) advise the Court of any cases involving your children in ANY court at ANY time and Orders in those cases, if any. In Line 7 you must advise of any persons who have actual and potential custody claims other than the Plaintiff and Defendant parents who are named in this complaint.
Specific reasons and explanations of the requested information are contained in the Maryland Annotated Code, Family Law Volume. This text is available free online at the following link: https://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mdcode/ It is also available in text/hard copy at any County Circuit Court Law Library.
In Line 8 the Plaintiff discloses to the court with whom the child(ren) are living at the time of the filing of the Complaint for Absolute Divorce and in Line 9 you are required to provide details of the child(ren)’s residences for the past 5yrs. Finally at Line 10, the Plaintiff indicates what sort of custody he/she is asking the court to award eg. Legal Custody (joint or sole) and Physical Custody (joint or sole.)
If you are asking the court to order child support as part of the divorce that would be requested in what is known as the “Wherefore” section of the complaint which is contained on the last page of the DR20 form. Please note that if you check the box requesting child support be determined as part of your divorce, you will need to accompany forms DR30 and/or DR31 with your Complaint for Absolute Divorce.
If you ask for child support but do not file those forms, you risk the court denying your request for child support irrespective of custody or financial circumstances.
Tim Conlon Esquire at
The Divorce Place – Divorce Lawyers in Frederick Maryland
322 West Patrick Street Frederick Maryland 21701