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Child Custody Process in D.C.

Child custody decisions are rarely easy for parents, especially since these decisions most often must be made in the context of a separation or divorce. Since parents sometimes need help sorting through child custody issues, states give courts the authority to help make these decisions. State laws also provide guidance on how to make these decisions, which are generally based on the best interests of the child.

Establishing Paternity in D.C.

In D.C., there are a few different scenarios where a man is presumed to be the father of a child. The most common of these are when:

  • The man and the child's mother were married or in a domestic partnership during conception or birth and the child is born during the marriage or domestic partnership, or within 300 days after the end of the relationship; or
  • The putative father has acknowledged paternity in writing.

A mother-child relationship is established if she gives birth to a child. However, the District of Columbia also establishes a presumption for women in a same-sex relationship with the birth mother. A woman is presumed to be the mother of a child if she and the child's birth mother were married or in a domestic partnership during conception or birth and the child is born during the marriage or domestic partnership, or within 300 days after the end of the relationship.

Summary of Child Custody Process in D.C.

In the following table, you can find an overview of the child custody process in D.C. as well links to applicable statutes. Remember, while readying a summary of the laws is helpful, it's important to also read the actual text of the statute to have a better understanding of the law.

Statute(s)

District of Columbia Code, Division II, Title 16, Chapter 9, Section 16-914 (Custody of Children)

Filing for Child Custody: Residency Requirements

In order to file for custody in D.C., one of the following must be true:

  • The child must have been living in D.C. for at least 6 months; or
  • The child lived in D.C. and has been away for less than 6 months, and a parent still lives in D.C.
What If Parents Can't Agree on Custody?

A judge will first try to have the parents resolve their issues through mediation. If that doesn't work, there will be a custody trial, and the judge will decide based on the best interest of the child, which is based on a variety of factors including:

  • The child's wishes (when practical);
  • The child's adjustment to their home, school, and community;
  • The physical and mental health of all individuals involved;
  • Each parent's prior involvement in the child's life;
  • The demands of each parent's job;
  • The potential disruption to the child's school and social life;
  • The sincerity of each parent's request; and
  • The age and number of children.
Related Statute(s)

District of Columbia Code, Division II, Title 16, Chapter 9, Section 16-909, et seq. (Proof of Child's Relationship to Parents)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Child Custody Process in D.C.: Related Resources

For additional information and resources related to this topic, please click on the links listed below.

Get Professional Legal Help with the Child Custody Process in D.C.

It's always ideal when parents can put aside their differences and work out child custody decisions together. Unfortunately, this isn't always easy to achieve especially in the midst of a divorce. If you'd like help with the child custody process in D.C., it's best to speak with an experienced child custody attorney near you.

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