How to Apply for Sole Custody in Baltimore, Maryland


If you have sole custody of your children in Maryland, you have the rights to legal custody and physical custody, while the other parent has neither. For a sole custody arrangement, you provide the children with their primary residence, while the other parent may have visitation rights. To apply for sole custody in Baltimore City or Baltimore County, you must file a complaint in circuit court and comply with the court's requirements for custody proceedings.

Things You'll Need

  • Maryland Judiciary forms
  • Identify the circuit court where you should open your case for sole custody, as Maryland litigants must file their paperwork at specific court locations depending on where they live. Determine whether you must file for child custody at the Circuit Court of Baltimore City or the Circuit Court of Baltimore County.

  • Visit or contact the court clerk's office at the circuit court serving Baltimore City or Baltimore County and ask the clerk to tell you about the required paperwork and local fees to start a custody case in the family department, as each circuit court may use specific procedures. Obtain copies of the initial forms for custody from the court clerk's office or from the Maryland Judiciary's website.

  • Fill out Maryland Judiciary form Dom Rel 4, "Complaint for Custody," by filling in your personal information, the other parent's personal information and the requested information regarding your children's names, birth dates, current residence, prior residences and any existing custody arrangements. Identify any other court cases that may include custody issues related to your children, such as a divorce case. Check the boxes on Page 2 of the complaint form indicating that you request sole rights for both legal and physical custody of your children. Explain whether you would like the other parent to have visitation rights if the circuit court approves your request for sole custody.

  • File your completed complaint form at the circuit court serving Baltimore City or Baltimore County and pay the filing fee requested by the court clerk's office. Accept the Summons form issued by the clerk. Follow the clerk's instructions to serve a copy of your complaint and the Summons on your children's other parent. Wait for the time period specified by the court clerk to see if the other parent files a response to oppose your request for sole custody.

  • Participate in mediation and parenting classes as instructed by the clerk's office -- for example, Baltimore City parents with contested custody cases must take part in the Co-Parenting Education (COPE) program at court. Attend court-ordered settlement conferences, during which you and the other parent will discuss your request for sole custody and attempt to reach an agreement for the court's approval.

  • Go to Baltimore City or Baltimore County circuit court for your scheduled trial as instructed by the court clerk. Tell the judge that you would like sole custody of your children, providing the reasons for request if asked to do so by the judge, and explain that you and the other parent cannot agree that you should have sole custody. Follow up with the court after your court date as instructed by the judge and court clerk.


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