Divorce Lawyers District of Columbia

Filing Divorce in Washington DC

The purpose of a divorce is to terminate the marital bonds that were once considered eternal, at least at the ceremony. A marital dissolution is either a mutual and civil breakup or one possibly mired in accusations of abuse, deception, lies and adulterous behavior, among other things.

Washington, D.C. recognizes same-sex marriage. The rules and laws pertaining to married heterosexual couples who are seeking dissolution have the same legal force and effect for gay couples.

A divorce has certain preconditions and may require certain grounds before it may proceed in court. The divorce does not sever all bonds, however, since each party may have legal obligations toward the other regarding the distribution of marital property, child and spousal support, child custody and the tax consequences involved.

Getting a Divorce

People get divorced for any number of reasons, including falling out of love, abandonment, extramarital affairs or lack of interest in one another. You can choose a legal separation in lieu of divorce, which entails the same issues of child and spousal support payments, if applicable, and the division of property.

In some cases, you might qualify for an annulment in which the court decrees that your D.C. marriage never legally existed. Most annulments are requested for religious reasons so that the parties involved may retain favor with the church of their choice. You may only obtain an annulment if you or one of you was already married to someone else, you married a close relative like a sibling, your partner was mentally incompetent, or you or your partner was under the age of 16.

Type of Divorce

Most states no longer require that you establish fault before a divorce is granted. Fault-based divorce means that specific grounds for requesting a divorce such as mental or physical cruelty, abandonment or adultery must be alleged and proved. Some states do offer the option of either no-fault or a fault-based divorce depending on your goals.

Washington, D.C. is unique among no-fault divorce states in that most other no-fault states require a simple allegation that you are incompatible or have irreconcilable differences. There are only two grounds for a divorce in the District:

  • You must have voluntarily lived separately without cohabitation for six months.
  • You have lived separately and apart for one year.

The second condition does not require voluntariness. You can also have lived in the same house provided you did not sleep or eat together and paid for you own expenses.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

The obvious advantage in an uncontested divorce is that it is less costly, but you also get to set the parameters of your divorce agreement regarding the distribution of property, child custody and spousal maintenance. A mutually agreeable marital dissolution also is granted more quickly.

If your dissolution is contested, not only will you incur considerably more legal fees and other expenses, but also the court may have to resolve, to your possible dissatisfaction, issues of child custody, visitation schedules, the amount of spousal maintenance to be paid and the distribution of the marital property.

Since the District divides the marital property according to the rules of equitable distribution, the courts may award more assets to one party based on such factors as income disparity, education, employability, conduct of the parties, child custody and individual contributions to the marital property, among others.

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