Clear and simple answers to the most frequently asked questions in a D.C. Divorce
My spouse is cheating, can I get divorced?
Yes, but before filing for divorce, the parties must show that at least one spouse has been a resident of the District of Columbia for at least six months immediate preceding the filing of the divorce complaint. In addition, the parties must have been living "separately and apart" for a least six months, if the divorce is "mutual and voluntary," or for one-year if the divorce is not mutual and voluntary. So, for the man or woman who discovers that his or her spouse has been cheating, there is no way to speed up the clock. The spouses still must meet the residency and separation period requirements before filing for divorce. During that period, the parties can negotiate a separation agreement, which can be incorporated into their eventual divorce decree, if they choose.
Can my spouse divorce me even if I don't agree to it?
Yes. If one spouse wishes to get divorced, there is no way for the other spouse to permanently prevent the divorce from happening. The District of Columbia is a "no fault" jurisdiction, which means that you do not need to allege any fault or reason for a divorce. Anyone can get a divorce if they meet the residency and separation period requirements.
What information do I need to gather to prepare to file for divorce?
Before meeting with your divorce attorney, or filing your own complaint for divorce, you will need a certified copy of your marriage certificate. If you were married in Washington, D.C., you can go the Marriage Bureau in the D.C. Superior Court to obtain a copy. You will also need to gather documents pertaining to your finances, which will assist in the division of marital assets. These documents include tax returns for the past three years, bank statements, property deeds, pay stubs, credit card bills, a list of monthly expenses, and, if you have children, their birth certificates.
How is marital property divided during divorce in Washington, D.C.?
During a divorce, martial property is generally divided among the spouses, while non-marital property remains undivided. Marital property is property that was gained during the marriage, while non-marital property is property that was owed solely by one spouse before the marriage. In Washington, D.C., marital property is divided according to the principle of "equitable distribution." Generally, this means that assets and debts are divided in a way that is fair to the parties under the circumstances. Relevant considerations include the length of the marriage, the relative incomes of the parties, the education and earning potential of the parties, and the contribution to the marriage made by each spouse.
When will alimony be awarded in a D.C. divorce?
Alimony, or spousal support can be awarded if the District of Columbia under certain circumstances. Usually, if it is awarded at all, it is a temporary award. D.C. Code Section 16-913 sets forth specific factors that judges should consider before awarding spousal support. These factors include, among other factors, the ability of the party seeking alimony to be self-supporting, the length of the marriage, the relative income of the parties, the age and health of the parties, and the circumstances of the parties' estrangement.
Do I need to get a lawyer to represent me in my divorce?
The legal process of divorce in Washington, D.C. is fairly complex and bears on several vital interests of the spouses involved. Especially when there are children involved, the stakes can be very high and a wrong move could have negative consequences that go far beyond the financial. At a minimum, it would be wise to consult a divorce an attorney, just to ensure the you understand your rights. if you wish to go through the process alone, the D.C. Superior Court Family Court Self Help Center offers legal information to people who wish to handle their divorce themselves.
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