Custody in the District of Columbia

A judge in the District of Columbia is required to base a determination of custody by considering the best interest of the child. The law assumes that in most cases it is best for a child to be raised by both parents. This idea is described as a presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of a child. The law also assumes that in cases where there has been child abuse, child neglect, parental kidnapping, or domestic violence, joint custody is not in the best interest of a child.The presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child is the starting point for the judge. Before the judge hears any of the facts, he or she assumes that joint custody is in the best interest of the child (unless there has been child abuse, child neglect, parental kidnapping, or domestic violence). You can overcome the presumption of joint custody if you present evidence to the judge that indicates that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child in your case.

To determine what is in the best interest of a child, the law in the District of Columbia requires the judge to consider all relevant factors. In addition, the law says the judge must specifically consider each of these 17 issues:

  • The wishes of the child;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The child’s relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and others;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • Evidence of domestic violence;
  • The parents’ ability to communicate and make shared decisions about the child;
  • The willingness of the parents to share custody;
  • The prior involvement of each parent in the child’s life;
  • The potential disruption of the child’s social and school life;
  • The distance between the parents’ homes;
  • The demands of parental employment;
  • The age and number of children;
  • The sincerity of each parent’s request;
  • The parent’s ability to financially support a joint custody arrangement;
  • The impact on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibilities; and medical assistance
  • The benefit to the parents.

    If you have a dispute or questions regarding the custody of your child, we recommend that you retain qualified legal counsel.