Washington DC Divorce Laws

The following are Washington DC divorce laws covering grounds for divorce, property, child custody and alimony compiled by Thyden Gross and Callahan divorce lawyers.

Grounds for Divorce and Legal Separation

DC Code § 16–904. Grounds for divorce, legal separation, and annulment.

(a) A divorce from the bonds of marriage may be granted if:

(1) 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;

(2) 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.

(b) A legal separation from bed and board may be granted if:

(1) both parties to the marriage have mutually and voluntarily lived separate and apart without cohabitation; or

(2) 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.

(3) Repealed.

(4) Repealed.

(c) For purposes of subsections (1) and (2) of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, parties who have pursued separate lives, sharing neither bed nor board, shall be deemed to have lived separate and apart from one another even though:

(1) they reside under the same roof; or

(2) the separation is pursuant to an order of a court.

(d) Marriage contracts may be annulled in the following cases:

(1) where such marriage was contracted while either of the parties thereto had a former spouse living, unless the former marriage had been lawfully dissolved;

(2) where such marriage was contracted during the insanity of either party (unless there has been voluntary cohabitation after the discovery of the insanity);

(3) where such marriage was procured by fraud or coercion;

(4) where either party was matrimonially incapacitated at the time of marriage without the knowledge of the other and has continued to be so incapacitated; or

(5) where either of the parties had not attained the age of legal consent to the contract of marriage (unless there has been voluntary cohabitation after attaining the age of legal consent), but in such cases only at the suit of the party who had not attained such age.

(e) Domestic partnerships registered under § 32-702(a) or relationships recognized under § 32-702(i) may be terminated by judicial decree or judgment.

Alimony

DC Code § 16–913. Alimony.

(a) 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.

(b) 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.

(c) An award of alimony may be retroactive to the date of the filing of the pleading that requests alimony.

(d) 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:

(1) ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;

(2) time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to secure suitable employment;

(3) 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;

(4) duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;

(5) circumstances which contributed to the estrangement of the parties;

(6) age of each party;

(7) physical and mental condition of each party;

(8) ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting the needs of the other party; and

(9) financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:

(A) income;

(B) income from assets, both those that are the property of the marriage or domestic partnership and those that are not;

(C) potential income which may be imputed to non-income producing assets of a party;

(D) any previous award of child support in this case;

(E) the financial obligations of each party;

(F) the right of a party to receive retirement benefits; and

(G) the taxability or non-taxability of income.

Property Distribution

DC Code § 16–910. Assignment and Equitable Distribution of Property.

Upon entry of a final decree of legal separation, annulment, or divorce, or upon the termination of a domestic partnership pursuant to § 32-702(d) or § 16-904(e) and the filing of a petition for relief available under this section, in the absence of a valid antenuptial or postnuptial agreement resolving all issues related to the property of the parties, the court shall:

(a) assign to each party his or her sole and separate property acquired prior to the marriage or domestic partnership, and his or her sole and separate property acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership by gift, bequest, devise, or descent, and any increase thereof, or property acquired in exchange therefor; and

(b) value and distribute all other property and debt accumulated during the marriage or domestic partnership that has not been addressed in a valid antenuptial or postnuptial agreement or a decree of legal separation, regardless of whether title is held individually or by the parties in a form of joint tenancy or tenancy by the entireties, in a manner that is equitable, just, and reasonable, after considering all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:

(1) the duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;

(2) the age, health, occupation, amount, and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, assets, debts, and needs of each of the parties;

(3) provisions for the custody of minor children;

(4) whether the distribution is in lieu of or in addition to alimony;

(5) each party’s obligation from a prior marriage, a prior domestic partnership, or for other children;

(6) the opportunity of each party for future acquisition of assets and income;

(7) each party’s contribution as a homemaker or otherwise to the family unit;

(8) each party’s contribution to the education of the other party which enhanced the other party’s earning ability;

(9) each party’s increase or decrease in income as a result of the marriage, the domestic partnership, or duties of homemaking and child care;

(10) each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, dissipation, or depreciation in value of the assets which are subject to distribution, the taxability of these assets, and whether the asset was acquired or the debt incurred after separation;

(11) the effects of taxation on the value of the assets subject to distribution; and

(12) the circumstances which contributed to the estrangement of the parties.

(c) The Court is not required to value a pension or annuity if it enters an order distributing future periodic payments.

Custody

DC Code § 16–914. Custody of Children.

(a)(3) In determining the care and custody of a child, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration. To determine the best interest of the child, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:

(A) the wishes of the child as to his or her custodian, where practicable;

(B) the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to the child’s custody;

(C) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may emotionally or psychologically affect the child’s best interest;

(D) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;

(E) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;

(F) evidence of an intrafamily offense as defined in section 16-1001(5) [now § 16-1001(8)];

(G) the capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare;

(H) the willingness of the parents to share custody;

(I) the prior involvement of each parent in the child’s life;

(J) the potential disruption of the child’s social and school life;

(K) the geographic proximity of the parental homes as this relates to the practical considerations of the child’s residential schedule;

(L) the demands of parental employment;

(M) the age and number of children;

(N) the sincerity of each parent’s request;

(O) the parent’s ability to financially support a joint custody arrangement;

(P) the impact on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibilities, and medical assistance; and

(Q) the benefit to the parents.