Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a Family Law Magistrate?
A family law magistrate (FLM) is a judicial officer who has some of the same powers as a judge. An FLM handles domestic relations proceedings involving minor children. FLM's may conduct case management conferences, preside over some hearings, and issue interim and final child support orders. They may also enter final judgments in uncontested proceedings.
- What happens at a case management conference in a family matters proceeding?
One primary purpose of a Case Management Conference (CMC) is to identify the issues on which the parents agree and those on which they do not agree, such as residency of the minor children, child support, marital debt, distribution of property, and spousal support. Another purpose is to ensure the children's needs are being met. The family law magistrate (FLM) may enter an Interim Order if the parties agree on some of the aforementioned issues. In addition, the FLM will identify the steps the parents must take to move the Family Matters case toward resolution.
- How do I start a divorce or other family matter proceeding?
Forms and instructions on how to proceed with a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities action are available at all District Court clerk's offices. You may also find forms and instructions at Pine Tree Legal's website: http://www.ptla.org.
- How much will the court case cost?
The filing fee for a divorce, parental rights and responsibilities, or paternity action is $120.00. Court papers must be "served" on the other parent. There are various methods of service allowed by court rules. Some costs are involved. The amount depends on the type of service used. At your case management conference the FLM (family law magistrate) may order you to attend mediation. There is a $160.00 mediation fee which is usually split between the parties.
If you are without funds to pay any of these fees you may obtain an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and an Indigency Affidavit at the court clerk's office and request that these fees be waived.
- What do I do if the other party is not complying with the court's order or if I believe the order should be changed?
Depending on the circumstances you may file one of several motions. Forms and instructions on how to file a Motion for Contempt, Motion to Modify or Motion to Enforce are available at all District Court clerk's offices. You may also find forms and instructions at the Pine Tree Legal website: http://www.ptla.org.
- What happens if I am ordered to participate in mediation?
For information about mediation, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution section of this site.
- What is a guardian ad litem?
A Guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person appointed by the court to conduct an investigation and make a recommendation about what is in the best interests of the children. A GAL bases his or her opinion on interviews of the parents and the children and other persons who may be helpful, such as teachers, social workers and grandparents. A GAL may also review records, including school, medical, and mental health records. For more information, see the guardian ad litem section of this site.
- If the court orders the other parent to pay child support, how do I collect it?
Sometimes the other parent will make regular payments, and you won't have to do anything to enforce the order. If payments are not being made or you think you will need help collecting the money, you may hire a lawyer or you may ask the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Support Enforcement & Recovery to help you. the phone number for that office is (207) 624-4100.
The court clerk can provide you with a DHHS brochure, application and contract. DHHS does not charge for its services. If you or your children receive TANF or MaineCare, DHHS will automatically help you collect support.
- What is CASA?
For information about Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA), visit the CASA pages.
- What do I do if my child has been removed from my home as part of a child protection proceeding?
Please review our online guide: A Handbook for Parents and Legal Guardians in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases.
- How do I get a restraining order (Protection from Abuse Order)?
Please review our booklet: Protection from Abuse Cases.