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Washington DC Divorce Information

The following information is to provide a basic understanding of the various aspects of divorce in the State of Washington, DC.

You can get more specific information regarding Washington, DC divorce laws using the links provided to Washington, DC divorce laws or at your local library.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Before taking any action you should seek the advice of an attorney familiar with the laws in the state in which you will be seeking a divorce.

Every effort has been made to assure that the information contained in these pages is accurate however, due to the ever changing nature of the law some material may be outdated or may no longer apply.

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Washington DC divorce laws

Residency Requirements 6 months
Where to File Petitions for separation and divorce are filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
Grounds for Divorce A divorce may be granted if:
  • Both parties to the marriage have mutually and voluntarily lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of six months next preceding the commencement of the action;
  • Both parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year next preceding the commencement of the action.
Voluntary or required mediation No
Voluntary or recommended Counseling Yes
Property Distribution Washington D.C. is an equitable distribution state. The district's marital property laws direct courts to assign each party to a divorce his or her own separate property. This includes all property owned by that spouse before the marriage or a domestic partnership. It also includes all separate property acquired during the marriage via gift or inheritance.
D.C.'s marital property laws direct courts to consider a number of factors when making a property distribution. These include (but aren't limited to):
  • The circumstances which contributed to the to the divorce;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • The age, health, occupation, and employability of the parties;
  • Provisions for children;
  • Existing provisions for children from before the marriage;
  • Contributions of a homemaker or caretaker;
  • Contribution to the other spouse's education or earning ability;
  • Tax considerations on dividing property and assets.
Child Custody In any proceeding between parents in which the custody of a child is raised as an issue, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration. The race, color, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression of a party, in and of itself, shall not be a conclusive consideration. The Court shall make a determination as to the legal custody and the physical custody of a child. A custody order may include:
  • Sole legal custody;
  • Sole physical custody;
  • Joint legal custody;
  • Joint physical custody; or
  • Any other custody arrangement the Court may determine is in the best interest of the child.
Child Support In any case that involves the establishment of child support, or in any case that seeks to modify an existing support order, if the judicial officer finds that there is an existing duty of child support, the judicial officer shall conduct a hearing on child support, make a finding, and enter a judgment in accordance with the child support guideline ("guideline") established.
The guideline shall be based on the following principles:
  • The guideline shall set forth an equitable approach to child support in which both parents share legal responsibility for the support of the child.
  • The subsistence needs of each parent shall be taken into account in the determination of child support.
  • A parent has the responsibility to meet the child's basic needs, as well as to provide additional child support above the basic needs level.
  • Application of the guideline shall be gender neutral.
  • The guideline shall be applied consistently regardless of whether either parent is a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibility, or General Assistance for Children recipient, or a recipient of benefits under any substantially similar means-tested public assistance program.
Spousal Support When a divorce or legal separation is granted, or when a termination of a domestic partnership becomes effective under § 32-702(d) or § 16-904(e) and one partner has filed a petition for relief available under this section, the Court may require either party to pay alimony to the other party if it seems just and proper. The award of alimony may be indefinite or term-limited and structured as appropriate to the facts. The Court shall determine the amount and the time period for the award of alimony. An award of alimony may be retroactive to the date of the filing of the pleading that requests alimony. In making an award of alimony, the Court shall consider all the relevant factors necessary for a fair and equitable award, including, but not limited to, the:
  • Ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
  • Time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to secure suitable employment;
  • Standard of living that the parties established during their marriage or domestic partnership, but giving consideration to the fact that there will be 2 households to maintain;
  • Duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
  • Circumstances which contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
  • Age of each party;
  • Physical and mental condition of each party;
  • Ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting the needs of the other party; and
  • Financial needs and financial resources of each party.

This information has been compiled directly from the most recently available statutes online for each state. Every effort has been made to assure that this information is correct and complete. Be aware that laws frequently change. Do not take any action based on this information without first consulting an attorney to be certain that the laws pertaining to your particular situation have not changed.

The language used in most cases on this page is legal terminology taken directly from the statutes and laws of each state. The terminology is not always easy to understand. If you are not sure of something you should consult an attorney so that you can fully understand the meaning of the laws.

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Do not take any actions based upon the information contained within this web site without first consulting an attorney or an appropriate professional depending upon the content of the information.