If you are involved in a custody/access/child support case in Maryland, you or the other parent may request a temporary hearing, referred to as a Pendente Lite (“PL”) hearing before a Magistrate. A Magistrate is not a Judge, but under Maryland rules, may take testimony under limited circumstances such as a request for a PL order regarding custody/access and child support. Usually the hearing is set for a limited time period not more than 2 hours. The parties and witnesses may be heard, and written evidence may be submitted. At the conclusion of the PL hearing the Magistrate will issue written findings of fact and a recommendation to the Judge of the Circuit Court regarding any and all issues raised at the PL hearing.
Either party may, within 10 days of the issuance of the recommendations, file what is referred to as ‘exceptions”. The exceptions filing must state the reason for the filing along with a request for the Circuit Court to review the findings of the magistrate. When exceptions are filed the filing party must obtain at a cost of typically $200-$400 a copy of the transcript of the hearing so the court will have an opportunity to review the case. After the filing of the case and the transcript an exceptions hearing will be held before a Circuit Court Judge. Exceptions hearings are usually set for 1 hour.
The parties will have an opportunity, typically through their lawyers if they are represented, to convince the Judge that the Magistrate made a reversable error in the findings of fact and recommendation. It is typical, but not required, that the Judge will issues his/her decision from the bench immediately after the hearing. The Judge can affirm the decision in which case the recommendations of the Magistrate will be accepted, and the Order signed. Alternatively, the Judge may issue his/her own Order or may send the case back to the Magistrate for further consideration.
Should you have any questions about this or any family law matters please call the Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis for a free telephone consultation.