July 23, 2019

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Divorce in the District of Columbia

Washington DC Law Firms

Divorce is one of the most sensitive legal matters you may face in your lifetime. It is in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the District of Columbia’s unique divorce laws before taking legal action, or if you have been served with divorce papers.

Grounds for Divorce

The District of Columbia only grants no-fault divorce. One or both spouses must claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken and one of the following conditions must be met:

  • Mutually and voluntarily living separate and apart for at least six months
  • Living separate and apart for at least one year, if it is not mutual and voluntary

Under D.C. law, a couple can live separately and apart under the same roof as long as they pursue separate lives and do not share a bed or meals.

Same Sex Divorce for Non-Residents

Like most jurisdictions, the District of Columbia has residency requirement for couples who wish to get divorced. For most couples, at least one spouse must have lived in D.C. for at least six months before filing.

However, since same-sex couples can become legally married in D.C., but some states will not recognize the marriage nor will they grant a divorce, same sex couples who were married in D.C. but no longer live in D.C. can get divorced here if neither of them lives in a jurisdiction which will conduct the divorce proceedings.

Property Division

The District of Columbia uses the “equitable distribution” method of dividing property in a divorce. Equitable distribution does not mean that property is divided equally. It means that it is divided in a manner that the court believes is fair based on a number of factors including:

  • How long you have been married
  • Income sources and potential, assets, debts, age, health, and needs of each spouse
  • Provisions for the custody of minor children
  • Whether or not there will be alimony
  • Obligations from prior marriages or for prior children, for each spouse
  • Opportunity for future acquisition of assets and income, for each spouse
  • Contribution of each spouse to the family unit, including as a homemaker
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the other spouse’s education, enhancing their earning ability
  • The increase or decrease of each spouse’s income as a result of the marriage and family duties performed during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s contribution in acquiring the property to be divided as well as their contributions to increase, decrease, or maintaining of the value of those assets
  • The effects of taxation on the value of the assets to be distributed
  • The circumstances leading to the divorce