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LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

The mission of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland includes a focus on public policy, advocacy and research to achieve systemic change. Using experience gained from work with clients and knowledge of legal issues and the legal community, the Women’s Law Center identifies and addresses policy initiatives and emerging issues that have a broad impact on women’s rights. It develops policy recommendations and works to create solutions and overcome barriers to equality for women.

Founded over 40 years ago, the Women’s Law Center has been at the forefront of significant progress, but full equality for women has not been achieved. We continue to strive for access to justice and equal rights for women. Public policy and advocacy efforts include:

Legislative Advocacy

The Women’s Law Center takes positions on legislation that affects women’s legal rights.

Appellate Advocacy

The Women’s Law Center supports and participates in impact appellate advocacy.

Research

The Women’s Law Center conducts research about issues that impact women’s legal rights and identifies trends and emerging issues. The Women’s Law Center performed the only empirical study about family law decisions in Maryland to inform and educate advocates, policy-makers and litigants.

Custody and Financial Distribution in Maryland 
Released in April 2004, this report analyzes an extensive dataset consisting of domestic cases filed in Maryland during Fiscal Year 1999. The Women’s Law Center embarked on this intensive research project after receiving input from practitioners and litigants, including callers to its family law hotlines, about perceived inequities and inconsistencies in the custody and divorce process in Maryland. Finding that alimony was infrequently requested and awarded, the report recommended changes to spousal support awards, including the development of guidelines. This recommendation eventually resulted in the development of the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines. In addition, the report recommended opposition to a presumption of joint legal custody and increased use of alternative dispute resolution methods.

Families in Transition
This document examines Maryland family law cases from Fiscal Year 2003, explores how the family law landscape changed between the two research periods. The follow up report reiterates the need for more predictability in alimony awards, highlights the importance of access to an attorney in custody cases and notes the need for screening of domestic violence cases.

Maryland’s Family Violence Option
The Women’s Law Center analyzed the implementation of the Family Violence Option that offers States the option to screen all applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and waive any program requirement that would make it more difficult for domestic violence victims to escape abusive relationships or create a risk of further abuse.

Judicial Selections Process and Judicial Monitoring

The Women’s Law Center’s advocates for a judiciary that is fair and free of gender bias. Judicial Selections Committee interviews candidates for judicial vacancies and submits its ranking with the Judicial Nominating Committee. Judicial candidates who wish to be interviewed should contact the Women’s Law Center at 410-321-8761. Occasionally, the Women’s Law Center contacts the Judicial Disabilities Commission when we become aware of particularly egregious and prejudicial conduct by a judge.

Education

The Women’s Law Center produces educational publications to help individuals be aware of and understand their legal rights.