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Washington, DC Divorce

The time leading up to getting a divorce in Washington, DC can be one of the most trying times in your life. In some cases, you are the one who wants to get a divorce, and your spouse agrees.  In these situations, it may be possible to get through the process rather peacefully and without the need for extended litigation.

However, it should be noted that, even if your spouse agrees with you that getting a divorce is the right option, it doesn’t mean that there will not be a dispute over issues such as child custody and child support, and/or the division of marital assets and any payment of alimony. 

In some cases, your spouse wants to get a divorce and you do not, but it seems that there is no choice, as he or she is already meeting with a Washington, DC divorce attorney and ready to file a petition for divorce with the Family Division of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. 

In this case, you should speak with an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible to make sure your rights are protected.  While you may not be able to avoid getting a divorce, you want to make sure you are in the best possible position with respect to issues of child custody and visitation, child support, and property division. In some cases, spousal support may also be an issue.

In some cases, it may be you who wants to get a divorce, and your spouse is not willing to listen; in these cases, you should also speak with an experienced attorney to see if you have grounds for a divorce and how to best ensure the proper result for you and any children you may have.

Divorce Grounds in The District of Columbia

In Washington, DC, the City Council has decided to take a somewhat more progressive approach and do away with traditional fault grounds.  Traditional fault grounds, which may still be raised in a Maryland divorce case, are things such as adultery, physical or mental cruelty, and abandonment.  In a Washington, DC divorce case, you do not have to prove any of these fault grounds to get a divorce, and you could not allege them even if you wanted in most cases.

With this in mind, if you petition the court for a /ha>divorce in Washington, DC, you will be requesting what is known as no-fault divorce. While this is easier in many ways that proving a fault-based claim, there are certain things that must be established to give the court jurisdiction to hear your case and grant a divorce absolute.

The first requirement is that one or both of the parties must have lived in the District of Columbia for at least six months prior to filing.  You cannot move to a state (or federal district) for the purpose of taking advantage of their divorce laws.  In addition to the residency requirement, you must also live separate and apart for a period of six months to one year, depending on whether or not the separation is voluntary, meaning both spouses agree. 

While separate and apart normally means living in separate residences, the D.C. City Council recognizes that this is not always financially feasible, so, in some circumstances, you can live in the same residence but do not share a bed or otherwise live as a married couple.

With a six-month voluntary separation, you are required to live apart for at least six months, as the name implies, and you must not engage in cohabitation with your spouse at any point during that time period.  Cohabitation is essentially the legal term for engaging in sexual relations.  If you cohabitate during this period of time, the clock could reset, and you have to wait another six months before filing for a divorce.

If both spouses do not agree to the separation, and one spouse moves out without consent of the other, you may have to wait one year before filing for divorce.  It is important to understand that if you have children, unlike on television or the movies, you cannot simply take your kids and move out.  You may have to deal with immediate child custody and visitation issues, so as not to get in any trouble.  Even if you have not reached the one year necessary to file a divorce in Washington, DC, you may able to file a child custody action first.

If you need assistance with a divorce case or any other family law matter in the District of Columbia or Maryland, please contact the Law Offices of Daniel A. Gross for a consultation.