How do I...?

This section provides information to help you resolve your conflict through a Maryland Court or alternatives. Unlike the other parts of the site that focus on the law itself, this section focuses on the legal process and alternatives to going to court.

Evaluate My Situation

Knowing whom to sue may not be as easy as you think. It is essential that you sue the right person or legal entity. You can lose your case if you sue the wrong person.
Understand your case type because it determines how your case proceeds in the courts.
Start by gathering as much information as you possibly can. Begin with basic information, (name, age, social security number) and then expand from there.
The records you will typically need include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, and divorce records. The records are maintained by the state or local government, where the event took place.
If you need to sue a business, you must first determine exactly who owns it. This article will help you decide on the legal entity/person(s) to name in your lawsuit.
The phrase "statute of limitations" refers to the limited period of time within which you can file a lawsuit against someone who harmed you.
A private investigator can help you find information and people.

Alternatives to Court

The word “demand” is misleading. “Demand” makes it sound as if the best strategy is to be aggressive in your approach to the person or business with whom you have a dispute. Try to resolve your dispute with the other side before going to court.
Family mediation is the mediation of disputes in actions for divorce, annulment, paternity, child custody or visitation, child support, or alimony. Mediation can be used to resolve the entire range of family disputes either court proceedings or after (e.g., continuing disputes from a custody agreement).
Before you sue, try to settle. Many cases come to trial needlessly because the parties have not attempted to communicate with each other.
Frequently asked questions about mediation. Mediation is a process where a trained impartial person helps people in a dispute communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible.
Mediation is a process where a trained impartial person helps people in a dispute communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible.
Prepare before negotiating with the other side. Negotiations are an important tool that can save time and money while resolving your case. Remember, going to court is costly (e.g., court fees and costs, potential attorney fees, time off work.) The court process can be emotionally exhausting. Below are a few tips on conducting a successful negotiation.
Many legal problems can be resolved through negotiation. Negotiating on your own behalf can be the solution to many minor disputes.
Mediators are trained in conflict resolution. They have experience helping people to communicate better with each other, even when it seems impossible for any agreement to be reached. For mediation to be effective, you should be comfortable with your mediator and discuss your needs openly.

Get Help

Getting help from a professional can make a major problem or question much easier.  Many organizations in Maryland provide legal and non-legal free, low-cost, and fee-based services.
When you hire a private attorney, choose what kind of relationship you will have with your attorney.
Limited scope representation is when you and your attorney agree that the attorney will provide some, but not all, of the work involved in your legal matter. You are still responsible for completing all of the tasks that the attorney did not agree to provide.  Limited scope representation is also called “unbundling” or “discrete task representation.”
Fees are often of primary importance to clients and lawyers but are one of the least discussed parts of any legal case. Frequently, fees are not discussed early enough, candidly enough, or in enough detail because the discussion can be uncomfortable.
This article addresses levels of representation, questions you should ask before meeting with a lawyer, interviewing a lawyer, what to look for during the interview, and what to ask about services.

Legal Research

This article is intended to help you evaluate legal information that's available online.
Secondary sources are resources that you can use to aid your understanding of the law but are not themselves considered law.
Case Law is made by judges. Case law is made up of the published opinions of a court on a particular case. Opinions are written explanations of why the judges decided the case the way they did.
The Maryland Rules are rules that lay out the procedures that must be followed when conducting business with the Maryland State courts.
Regulations are laws made by executive branch agencies. Executive branch agencies have the authority to make laws based on statutes passed by the legislatures.
A statute is a written law passed by a legislative body. Maryland's legislative body is the Maryland General Assembly. Congress is the legislative body for the United States.
Legal research can be a complicated process. Although there is a lot of free legal information on the Internet, the information may not all be accurate or detailed enough to answer all of your questions. If you are serious about handling your own legal problems, it's a good idea to go to a law library and seek research advice from a law librarian.
This is a quick overview of where to find the "law."
The General Assembly is Maryland's legislative body and enacts Maryland laws called statutes.
The purpose of legal research is to find legal documents that will aid in finding a solution to a legal problem.

Start/Respond to a Case

When deciding whether to pursue a case in court, there are a number of things to consider.
Many, but not all, court forms are available through the Maryland Judiciary website. Below are the links to some of the most commonly used forms from Maryland's District and Circuit Courts, Maryland's Office of Register of Wills, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and selected other sources. Local public law libraries can provide additional resources, including sample forms when there is not an official form for the legal action.
"Service of Process" is making sure the other side gets a copy of the papers you are filing (for example, a complaint).
Damages refers to the money that you are seeking in order to compensate you for some legal wrong that was committed by the other party. The person who claims damages must prove the amount of damages.
Learn the steps to starting a lawsuit.
Learn the steps to respond to a lawsuit.
Service is the act of providing documents to the required people (usually, the other parties or their lawyers) involved in a legal matter.  The general purpose of service is fairness.
Things to consider before filing a lawsuit.
Understanding these important differences will help you prepare and present your case in the District Court.
There are many types of cases in District Court. For each type of case, it is critical that you organize your case based on the specific legal elements needed to prove your particular case.
If you have just been served with (given a copy of) a Summons and a Complaint to appear in Small Claims Court, you are now the defendant in a lawsuit. Small Claims Court is part of the District Court of Maryland.

Discovery and Evidence

Under the Maryland Rules, you must provide the opposing party with your answers within either thirty days after service of the request or fifteen days after the date on which the party’s initial pleading or motion is required, whichever is later.
A deposition is a question-and-answer session during which an individual  provides testimony relating to the subject matter of the lawsuit under oath. There are two types of depositions – written and oral. Because written depositions are so rarely used, this article will address only oral depositions.
Frequently asked questions about discovery in the Maryland circuit courts.
When a party’s mental or physical condition is in controversy in a lawsuit, the Court may order the party to undergo a mental or physical examination by a professional.
There are two types of request for admissions. The first type asks the opposing party to admit or deny the truth of facts. The second asks the opposing party to admit or deny the genuineness of documents or ESI.
You may ask the opposing party to produce documents, tangible things, and electronically-stored information (“ESI”), and to permit you to enter land or property.
"Discovery" is a process you can use to find out information from another party to support your lawsuit. The purpose of discovery is to find out the information you need to prove your case or defend against the claims being made against you. You must figure out who you believe knows information that may be important to your case.
An interrogatory is a written question from one party to the lawsuit to another party to the lawsuit (usually, the opposing party). Interrogatories are a way to obtain information from the opposing party that may be useful in the lawsuit.
Many cases will require the help of experts. There are two types of experts: "consulting" experts who are not expected to be called at trial and experts whom you intend to call as witnesses at trial. There are special discovery rules that apply to experts.
In a legal case, “damages” refers to the money that you are seeking in order to compensate you for some legal wrong that was committed by the other party.
Damages refers to the money that you are seeking in order to compensate you for some legal wrong that was committed by the other party. The person who claims damages must prove the amount of damages.
In court, it's not enough to know a fact - you have to be able to prove it.  That means you have to be able to convince a jury or a judge that the fact is most likely true.
There are two steps in successfully using social media evidence (like a Facebook profile or post) from the opposing party as evidence in a trial. 
Sometimes when you file a motion or a response to a motion with the court, you may make statements about information that the court does not know. The statements you are making may have never been included in any papers filed with court, nor been mentioned in front of the court. 

Prepare for Court

Do you need help with English in order to make sure that your story is told accurately in court?
Ask the court clerk for a form or help in getting an interpreter. If the court decides that an interpreter is needed, the court will provide one.
A motion is a request asking the court to give an order that the court or another party must do something.  During a hearing or trial, you can make a motion verbally.  At any other time, you must make your motion in writing.  Your motion must say what you are asking the court to do.
If you are involved in a court case, you are generally not allowed to privately contact the judge about the case.
Things to consider and tips for presenting your case.
How to prepare for a hearing or trial.
The District Court in Maryland is a single statewide court with 34 court locations in 12 districts.
In court, it's not enough to know a fact - you have to be able to prove it.  That means you have to be able to convince a jury or a judge that the fact is most likely true.
Subpoenas are formal legal documents used in civil and criminal cases to order someone to bring documents or other physical evidence to a court proceeding, or to order someone to appear to testify at a court proceeding.   
Learning appropriate courtroom behavior will help you to fit in and feel more comfortable.
What to do to prepare, and what to avoid.
To be successful, plan to spend significant time preparing your case for trial. This is true whether you are the person who first filed the court case (the plaintiff) or the person who was sued (the defendant).
What to expect when you walk into the courtroom.

Judgments and Appeals

This article discusses Affidavit Judgments, what they are, how to get one, and available defenses.
If you lose your case and disagree with the decision, you always have a right to appeal it.
In Maryland, there are a number of Administrative Agencies that have powers like the courts but are not part of the Maryland Judiciary. Under Maryland law, any party who is affected by an agency decision can petition for an administrative hearing. Usually, parties must bring all issues and try every procedure that the agency has before filing for review in the Circuit Court.
Obtaining a judgment is the first step to collecting money owed by a defendant. This article describes options after the judgment is awarded and the money needs to be collected.
Default Orders & Judgments in Maryland: What are they and what can I do if I get one?
This article describes what a judgment is and an overview of options for collecting the judgment.
To garnish is to take property, most often a portion of someone's salary, by legal authority. Garnishment is a proceeding by a creditor to collect a debt by taking the property or assets of a debtor.
To garnish is to take property, most often a portion of someone's salary, by legal authority. Garnishment is a proceeding by a creditor to collect a debt by taking the property or assets of a debtor.