Divorce in DC

At least one party must be a resident of the District of Columbia for a minimum of 6 months before filing for a divorce.

A divorce may be granted if the parties have mutually lived separate and apart for 6 months, or have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for one year prior to filing for a divorce. Couples who have pursued separate lives, sharing neither bed nor food, can be deemed living separate and apart, even if they reside in the same house.

The District of Columbia utilizes the doctrine of “equitable distribution”, meaning the the court will distribute all property and debt acquired during the marriage in a just, equitable, and reasonable manner, considering the following factors:

The length of the marriage, other age, health, occupation, amount, and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, assets, debts, and needs of each of the parties, and the opportunity for future acquisition of assets and income ot he custody provisions of the minor children, whether the property distribution is in lieu of or in addition to alimony; each party’s obligation from a prior marriage or for other children; the contribution of each party as a homemaker; any contribution made by one party to help educate or develop the career or employability of the other party, and any interruption of either party’s educational or personal career opportunities for the benefit of the other’s career or for the benefit of the parties’ marriage or children; each party’s contribution to the marital assets (and whether the assets or debts were incurred after separation); the tax consequences for each party subject to distribution; and othe circumstances that caused the breakdown of the marriage.

Sole and separate property acquired prior to the marriage, or acquired during the marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or descent, and any increase thereof, or property acquired in exchange therefor; shall be considered separate property and not subject to division.

Either party may be awarded alimony, and may be indefinite or term-limited. In determining whether spousal support will be awarded, and the amount of alimony that will the paid, the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the age, health and mental conditions of each party, the standard of living established during the marriage, occupation, amount and sources of income, the property awarded in the divorce settlement, vocational skills, employability, length of time necessary to gain sufficient education or training for suitable employment, estate, liabilities, and needs of each of the parties; the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income; the fault of either party; the right of a party to receive retirement benefits; any previous award of child support in this case; and the federal tax consequences of the order.

The party that changed their name upon marriage may state in the decree that they will resume either their birth name or a previous name that they desire to use.

The best interest of the child will be the primary consideration in awarding custody. The court favors joint custody unless there is evidence of an intrafamily offence, abuse, neglect, parental kidnapping. The following factors are used in determining the best interest of the child:
1.The wishes of the child, where practicable;
2.the wishes of the parents regarding custody;
3.the relationship of the child with each parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may affect the child’s best interest;
4.the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, as well as the possible disruption of the child’s social and school life;
5.the physical and mental capability of each parent;
6.the willingness of the parents to share custody, communicate, and reach shared decisions;
7.each parent’s prior involvement in the child’s life;
8.the demands of parental employment and the parents ability to support a joint custody arrangement;
9.the age and number of children;
10.the sincerity of each parent’s request, and the benefits to the parent.

Both parents are responsible for the support of their children, and the payment of child support is gender-neutral. Child support is determined by the income-shares model, meaning that the level of child support will amount to a set percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income, and may be adjusted according to the age of the children. Prior child support orders that are being paid shall be deducted from a parent’s income before the child support obligation is computed.

The support guidelines shall be applied unless the resulting support would unjust or inappropriate. In such instances, factors that may be considered to deviate from the guidelines are:

other needs of the child are exceptional;
other non-custodial parents income is substantially less than that of the custodial parent;
other property settlement provides resources for the support of the child in an amount at least
equivalent to the guideline amount;
othe non-custodial parent needs a temporary reduction in the level of support (but not for more than 12 months)
to help pay off debt or rearrange financial obligations;
other cost of medical coverage paid for by the custodial parent is significant in comparison to the level of child support
ordered;
other custodial parent is receiving child support from more than one non-custodial parent to the extent that the
standard of living is higher than that of the non-custodial parent; or any other factors that would make the standard child support determination unfair.
In cases of shared custody, where the child spends at least 40% with each parent, the guidelines are not presumptive, but rather advisory, and may be adjusted at the discretion of the court using the modified guidelines set for such circumstances. Child support orders shall include provisions for wage withholding, and health coverage.

Premarital agreements must be in writing, and signed by both parties. They may address such issues as the rights and obligations of each party concerning any property acquired or sold, the modification or elimination of alimony, and any other matter not in violation of public policy or law. Child support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement. A premarital agreement is not enforceable if it can be proven that the agreement was signed under duress, or if the party signing the agreement was not made aware of the property or financial obligations of the other party.