When lawyers talk about “family law” or “domestic relations” as an area of practice, they are
referring to the use of law to resolve disputes arising in connection with marriage, sexual and
romantic relationships not resulting in marriage, and the parent-child relationship. If you need
help obtaining custody of a minor child, visitation with a minor child, child support, divorce,
alimony, or a fair distribution of marital property, then you should speak to a family law
practitioner. You also need to speak to a family law practitioner if you are a victim of domestic
abuse from a romantic or sexual partner (including a same-sex partner) and wish to obtain a
protective order to protect you from further abuse. Additionally, family law courts deal with
matters focusing on the child, including juvenile cases and the alleged abuse or neglect of a child
(known as “CCAN” cases in the District of Columbia and “CINA” cases in the Maryland).
Since the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, this county’s legal history has
seen an ever-increasing role of the federal government in the conduct of our daily affairs. Family
law remains one of the few areas of law that has been left almost exclusively to state courts.
In the District of Columbia, family law cases are brought in the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia. In the State of Maryland, all family law matters other than domestic violence cases
fall under the jurisdiction of the circuit courts, while domestic violence cases may be initiating
through filing a petition for a protective order either in the District Court of Maryland for the
county in which the alleged abuse has occurred, or in the circuit court for that county.