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D. C. Divorce Laws

trying timesFor those that have children from the marriage, D.C. divorce laws direct parents to complete a Parenting Plan and Visitation Schedule. Get these documents done right away so that you avoid the court giving you its own version. If you cannot get your spouse to agree, submit one yourself. The court will accept it unless your spouse objects, which will get your spouse negotiating (what you set out to do in the first place). 

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You will need to become familiar with certain aspects of D.C. divorce law in order to successfully navigate the treacherous waters of becoming single again.

Child Custody - Joint custody, shared custody, sole custody, legal custody

MomChances are you and your not so loving spouse have discussed who gets the kids, and maybe even discussed (argued about?) sole custody. As in the case of child support, D.C. child custody gets determined with "the best interests of the child" considered first. The court will determine the child custody of any minor children of the marriage based upon the best interests of the child. In determining the child's best  interests, the court will consider the following:custody strategies

1. The wishes of the parents;
2. The wishes of the child;
3. Relationship of the child with parents, grandparents, siblings and any other person whose relationship significantly affects the child;
4. The child's adjustment to home, school and community;
5. The physical and mental health of all parties; and,
6. Evidence of domestic violence

While child custody is based on Washington DC divorce statutes, the courts have flexibility to award child custody outside those guidelines, and must provide evidence supporting such a ruling.

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Marriage Annulment - Are you qualified to file for a marriage annulment?

justiceA marriage annulment is where a court declares that a marriage does not exist. Or never existed. In a marriage annulment, the court declares that the marriage never took place. In the District, there are a number of grounds for an annulment.

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. Someone marries someone who is already married (bigamy),
. Someone marries someone who is insane,
. Where a marriage was obtained by fraud or force,
. Underage (below 16),
. One marries a blood relative or
. One didn't understand what they were doing when they got married. In order to get a marriage annulment decreed from the courts, one needs to demonstrate one of these grounds is true. An Annulment is more difficult to come by than divorces. One must convince the court that a marital annulment is appropriate and demonstrate that a ground for annulment existed.


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Child Support - Who pays, when they pay and how much they pay

child supportWashington DC divorce laws, DC divorce laws, or District divorce laws allow that in cases brought to the court that involve the establishment, modification or enforcement of child support, a judicial officer may conduct a hearing on child support, make a finding, and enter a judgment in accordance with the child support guidelines. The guideline is based on the following criteria: 1.) Equitable approach to child support in which both parents share legal responsibility for the support of the child. 2.) The custody strategiesneeds of each parent are be taken into account in the determination of child support.

3.) A parent must meet the child's basic needs as well as to provide additional child support above the basic needs level. The child should not suffer a disproportionate share of the economic consequences of the existence of two households rather than one 4.) Application of the guideline must be gender neutral. 5.) The guideline will take into consideration the existence of a prior child support order. 6.) The guideline will take into account the difference in cost to raise children of different ages.

Washington DC (the District) defines gross income as it relates to child support determination as: 1.) All salary or wages; 2.) Commissions; 3.) Severance pay; 4.) Royalties; 5.) Bonuses; 6.) Interest or dividends; 7.) Income derived from a business or partnership; 8.) Social Security; 9.) Veteran's benefits; 10.) Insurance benefits; 11.) Worker's compensation; 12.) Unemployment compensation; 13.) Pension; 14.) Annuity; 15.) Income from a trust; 16.) Capital gains from a real or personal property transaction; 17.) Any and all other income that the parties receive.


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[Kansas Statutes - Chapter 60 - Article 16 - Subject: 1610]

Legal Separation or Marriage Separation - Is it recognized in D.C.?

fightingDistrict of Columbia law also allows a couple to seek a court recognized separation, called a legal separation. A legal separation is usually sought by one of the parties that wants to terminate the relationship but wishes that the status not be interrupted for religious or health care insurance coverage reasons. A legal separation is sometimes referred to as a marital separation, although a marital separation can occur by simply splitting up while a legal separation requires a written separation agreement and the court's involvement. One party must petition the court and request a legal separation and request that the court decide certain issues-such as child custody, child support, and property issues. Couples that are looking to use a separation as the basis for a divorce need not move out of the marital home. They must live separate lives and not share a bed, however.


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Divorce Settlement, distribution of assets - How marital property gets divided

marital assetsYou and your spouse get an opportunity to reach a divorce settlement with respect to marital assets and debt. Should you not be able to reach a divorce settlement, the court will divide your assets based on 'equitable distribution'. Each party will retain those assets they brought into the marriage. Marital assets (and debts) will be divided in an equitable fashion, although not necessarily evenly:

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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; and
12. the amount and sources of income of the spouses. The conduct of the spouses during the marriage is not a factor for consideration Did you come into this marriage owning a house? Concerned about the equity in that house that you brought into the marriage? Worried a divorce settlement will take away what was originally yours? Here's how it works generally. What you brought into the marriage is usually all yours. However, any appreciation of the house or the property value is normally treated as a 'marital asset', meaning that you will likely have to give up ahalf of that appreciation to your spouse in the divorce.

Alimony (Spousal Support or Maintenance) - Past court cases (case law) influence your case


Alimony in Washington DC (the District) can be temporary or permanent. The court will consider the following criteria:

1. The ability of the party seeking alimony to be to any degree self-sufficient.
2. The estimated amount of time necessary to be positioned for self-sufficiency e.g. education or training and employment
3. Standard of living the couple experienced while married
4. The length of the marriage.
5. Any circumstances during the marriage that may have contributed to the demise of the marriage
6. Age
7. Health
8. Ability to pay
9. The needs of each, and their respective financial positions

If alimony (which can also be called spousal support or maintenance) isn’t gained during the divorce process, it may not be granted once the divorce is final.

Cohabitation with someone of the opposite sex could alter the conditions of alimony, including a reduction or elimination of it. The divorce decree should spell out whether the simple fact of cohabitation terminates alimony, or another condition applies.


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Visitation (Co-Parenting) - The non-custodial parent receives court-ordered time with the children

new timesIn the District of Columbia, a court will enter an order for any custody arrangement that is agreed to by both parents unless it becomes obvious the plan is not in the best interest of the child. In general, this arrangement is known as the visitation agreement, or custody agreement. 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.The term "legal custody" includes the right to make decisions regarding that child's health, education and general welfare, the right to access the child's educational, medical, psychological, dental or other records, and the right to speak with and obtain information regarding the child from school officials, health care providers, counselors or other persons interacting with the child. The non-custodial will get visitation that in most cases includes every other weekend (or two weekends per month), one non-overnight weekday visit, alternating holidays and a number of weeks in summer. Don't get hung up on whether you have joint legal or joint physical. The rights and responsibilities described in the final divorce decree matter much more so.


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Grounds for Divorce - You must file papers using one of these allowed grounds

cheatingThe District is a “No-fault” entity. To qualify, District divorce laws mandate that the parties must have mutually separated and lived apart for at least 6 months. Cohabitation will not have occurred for at least one year. The separation period which completes the grounds may be accomplished by living under the same roof, as long as the spouses do not share bed or food.



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Residency - Have you lived in the state long enough to file for divorce?

residencyAt least one of the parties to the marriage must be a bona fide resident of Washington DC ( District of Columbia) for at least six months preceding the filing.




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Waiting Period - Restrictions on how much time must elapse before proceeding

tetheredNo divorce may be granted until after the parties have been separated for a period of six months. Many states impose a waiting period, which serves as a deterrent to couples that tend to rush into things.





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Mediation - Use a mediator to resolve disagreements before or instead of trial

mediationIn Washington DC (the District), mediation is used as an alternative to traditional divorce litigation (filing suit for divorce). The mediation intends to provide for a more impartial third-party consideration. The parties may have present attorneys, counselors or advisors during mediation.

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Costs associated with mediation are borne by the parties, and are in addition to other costs. At the conclusion of the meeting(s), the mediator drafts agreements that often include child support, custody, alimony and visitation and property division. Marriage counseling can be suggested if it appears the parties may benefit from the experience.

Grandparents Rights - Federal and State Laws permit visitation in many instances

grandmotherFederal law and District divorce law allow grandparents to petition the court for visitation. Consideration is always based on the best interests of the child. If the court see that it will benefit to the child and not cause an undue burden to the parents of the child, it will rule in favor ofvisitation. We here at DRS also suggest that grandparents initiate a request to have the children remain in their lives while the children's parents are still in the process of divorce. Typically this can reduce legal costs as opposed to waiting until after the divorce, and initiating an action.




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A Word On Your Journey Toward Healing And Recovery ...

At some point in the process, you may discover that you will not be able to manage the divorce recovery all by yourself. If you are a man, you are apt to bury the hurt and anguish and force yourself to Move On. However, unresolved feelings are just that- unresolved, and are likely to become issues later on. If you are a woman, you will feel the process more, and likely will experience a feeling of loss while feeling lost. We recommend you spend time discovering why things worked out as they did, so that you grow with the new knowledge. We offer a myriad of tools that can get you to the other side. The more you learn, the less you fear. Trust us on this. Spend some time and a few bucks and the return will be ten-fold.

Arm yourself with Child Custody Strategies, read Divorce Articles, begin an on-line Parenting Plan and download Divorce Forms. Begin TODAY.