Divorce Guide

Divorce Guide


Divorce Laws in Washington DC



Residency Requirements for Divorce in Washington DC
One of the spouses must have been a resident of Washington D.C. for 6 months immediately prior to filing for divorce. Military personnel are considered residents if they have been stationed in Washington D.C. for 6 months.

Legal Grounds for Divorce in Washington DC

  1. No Fault Divorce:
    1. Mutual voluntary separation without cohabitation for 6 months
    2. living separate and apart without cohabitation for 1 year
    "Living separate and apart" may be accomplished under the same roof, if the spouses do not share bed or food.
  2. General Divorce:
    1. Mutual voluntary separation without cohabitation for 6 months and
    2. living separate and apart without cohabitation for 1 year are the only grounds for divorce in Washington D.C.

Legal Separation in Washington DC
Legal separation (from bed and board) may be granted on the following grounds:

  1. adultery
  2. cruelty
  3. voluntary separation
  4. living separate and apart without cohabitation
One of the spouses must have been a resident for 6 months prior to filing for legal separation. Military personnel are considered residents if they have been stationed in Washington D.C. for 6 months.

Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures in Washington DC
There are no legal provisions in Washington D.C. for simplified divorce.

Divorce Mediation in Washington DC
The court may order either or both spouses to attend parenting classes in those cases in which child custody is an issue.

Divorce Property Distribution
Washington D.C. is an "equitable distribution" jurisdiction. If there is no valid property distribution agreement, each spouse retains his or her separate property (acquired before the marriage or acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance) and any increase in such separate property and any property acquired in exchange for such separate property. All other property, regardless of how title is held, shall be divided equitably and reasonably, based on relevant factors, including:

  1. the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker
  2. the length of the marriage
  3. the occupation of the spouses
  4. the vocational skills of the spouses
  5. the employability of the spouses
  6. the estate, liabilities, and needs of each spouse and the opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income
  7. the assets and debts of the spouses
  8. any prior marriage of each spouse
  9. whether the property award is instead of or in addition to alimony
  10. any custodial provisions for the children
  11. the age and health of the spouses
  12. the amount and sources of income of the spouses
The conduct of the spouses during the marriage is not a factor for consideration.

Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be awarded alimony, during the divorce proceeding or after, if it is just or proper. There are no specific factors listed in the statute. However, martial fault may be considered.

Spouse's Name After Divorce
Upon request, the birth name or previous name may be restored.

Child Custody After Divorce
Sole or joint custody may be granted during and after a divorce proceeding based on the best interests of the child, without regard to spouse's sex or sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, or political affiliations. The following factors shall also be considered:

  1. the preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and capacity
  2. the wishes of the parents
  3. the child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  4. the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  5. the relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and other significant family members
  6. the willingness of the parents to share custody
  7. the prior involvement of the parent in the child's life
  8. the geographical proximity of the parents
  9. the sincerity of the parent's request
  10. the age and number of children
  11. the demands of parental employment
  12. the impact on any welfare benefits
  13. any evidence of spousal or child abuse
  14. the capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child's welfare
  15. the potential disruption of the child's social and school life
  16. the parent's abililty to financially support a joint custody arrangement
There is a rebuttable presumption that joint interest is in the best interests of the child unless child abuse, neglect, parental kidnapping or other intrafamily violence has occurred. The court may order the parents to submit a written parenting plan for custody.

Child Support After Divorce
Either parent may be ordered to pay reasonable child support during and after a divorce proceeding. Detailed specific child support guidelines are contained in Title 16, Chapter 9, Sections 916.1 and 916.2. Variations from the official child support guidelines are allowed based on the following factors:

  1. the child's needs are exceptional
  2. the non-custodial parent's income is substantially less than the custodial parent's income
  3. a property settlement between the parents provides resources for the child above the minimum support requirements
  4. the non-custodial parent provides support for other dependents and the guideline amounts would cause hardship
  5. the non-custodial parent needs a temporary reduction [of no longer than 12 months] in support payments to repay a substantial debt
  6. the custodial parent provides medical insurance coverage
  7. the custodial parent receives child support payments for other children and the custodial parent's household income is substantially greater than that of the non-custodial parent
  8. any other extraordinary factors
Child support may be ordered to be paid through the Clerk of the Superior Court.


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