Washington DC Divorce Laws Explained in Detail
If you and your spouse can’t overcome issues and differences, you should start thinking about a divorce. To terminate your marriage in Washington DC, you have to understand how the capital of the United States regulates these matters, and we can help with that!
DoNotPay has all the facts on DC Divorce Laws—from grounds and requirements to necessary divorce papers.
Divorce laws are the crucial aspect of every marriage dissolution, contested or uncontested. In Washington DC, these laws regulate the following matters:
- Residency and filing requirements
- Grounds for a divorce
- Property distribution
- Spousal support
- Child support and custody
To file for divorce in DC, you have to meet residency requirements. If the court doesn’t have jurisdictional rights over your case, it will reject and dismiss your petition.
Here’s everything you should know:
- At least one of the spouses must be a resident of Washington DC for at least six months before petitioning for divorce
- Every active military member in Washington DC is considered a resident if they have been stationed there for a minimum of six months
A petitioner (plaintiff) must provide grounds for a divorce while filing the petition. Regardless of the type of your divorce, these reasons are legally acceptable in DC:
- Mutual voluntary separation without cohabitation for at least the previous six months
- Living separately and apart without cohabitation for at least one year before petitioning (living in the same house but not sharing a bed or food)
Washington DC is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that all marital assets are divided equitably. It means you get what is fair. It’s best that you reach an out-of-court settlement regarding this issue. If you can’t reach a settlement, the court will determine what property is separate and what is marital and distribute it accordingly.
Gifts, inheritances, and any other property acquired before entering the union are separate assets. Anything other than that is considered marital property, and the court will divide it based on the following factors:
- Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition
- Duration of the marriage
- Occupation of the spouses
- Vocational skills
- Estate, liability, and needs for the acquisition
- The amount and sources of income
- Separate debts and property
- Prior marriages
- Custodial provisions for the children
- Age and health of the spouses
- Whether the property award is instead of or in addition to alimony
Not every divorce case ends in one spouse paying the alimony to the other. The court determines this obligation on a case-to-case basis. The court may order one of the spouses to pay temporary or permanent financial support to the other one based on several economic factors.
Fault in the breach of the marital contract is not considered while making this decision.
When minor children are involved in a divorce case, the court takes extra steps to minimize the stress and emotional trauma they might be facing. The best course of action is agreeing on the terms like custody and child support. If the spouses are unable to do that, the court must regulate both matters at their discretion.
While establishing custody and child support, the court needs to make the children’s best interest a priority. A decision regarding the custody will be based on numbers of factors, including:
- Children’s wishes
- Parents’ wishes
- Age and capacity
- Ability to adjust to a new home and surroundings
- Parents’ financial situation
- Any evidence of child or spousal abuse
In the District of Columbia, the court uses the Percentage of Income Formula to calculate the amount of support obligation as an income percentage of the non-custodial parent.
Having a judge make decisions and determine the terms of your divorce is complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. That’s why many couples opt for a friendly divorce, provided they qualify. According to divorce laws in DC, to get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse have to meet the residency requirements and agree on the following matters:
- Debt and property division
- Child custody
- Parenting time
- Child support
You should make the agreement formal by writing a document that’s legally binding for both of you. Having a written divorce settlement agreement reduces the chance of potential conflicts in the future. Don’t know how to write the document? Register for DoNotPay to get the contract in a breeze!
The process of filing for divorce in DC consists of the following steps:
- Fill out the required DC divorce forms—You can find the necessary forms online on the District of Columbia Courts website. Once you fill them out, make sure to get several copies of each document
- File original documents with the DC divorce court—You have to file your petition and the rest of the documents with the DC Superior Court in the Family Court Central Intake Center
- Serve papers to your spouse—There are three ways to serve your spouse in Washington DC:
- Through personal service
- Via certified mail
- By substitute service at home
Don’t want to waste any more time and money on the divorce? With DoNotPay, you don’t have to!
Having a comprehensive database of divorce laws and regulations across the U.S. allows us to create mistake-free legal documents, such as a divorce settlement agreement.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Access DoNotPay
- Choose the Divorce Settlement Agreement product
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DoNotPay will draft and send you a personalized divorce settlement agreement within minutes. We can even help you get it notarized!
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