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District of Columbia Child Custody Laws

Parents must come to an agreement on child custody when they separate. These arrangements include how they will make major decisions regarding their child moving forward (referred to as "legal custody") and how they will share time with the child (referred to as "parenting time," "timesharing," or "physical custody," depending on the state). If parents are unable to come to an agreement, courts will decide the best course of action based on state child custody laws.

Each state has its own laws governing child custody. The same is true in our nation's capital. This article provides a quick summary of the law in Washington D.C. governing who gets child custody and how that determination is reached.

Determining Child Custody in D.C.

Courts hearing child custody proceedings will make determinations about child care and custody. District of Columbia law gives a court making custody decisions considerable flexibility to reach a solution that's in the best interests of the child. What the child wants, what the parents want, and the interests of other people closely involved in a child's life (however, courts won't consider other persons' interests if both parents are fit); the child's home, school, and community interests; and the ability of separated parents to work together all enter into the equation.

Courts can award sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or whatever other form of custody is determined to be in the child's best interests. D.C. law includes a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child, though this presumption can be challenged (rebutted) in custody proceedings. There are also some red flags that will weigh against custody. Domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, and parental kidnapping reverse the presumption and favor sole custody.

District of Columbia Child Custody Laws: The Basics

Even though reading the actual statute is an important step of legal research, it can be helpful to also read an overview of the statute in plain English.

In the following table, you'll find an overview of child custody laws in D.C. as well as links to applicable statute(s). Find more related resources in FindLaw's extensive Child Custody section.


§ 16-914 et seq. of the District of Columbia Code

Year Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Adopted


Joint Custody an Option?

Yes. In fact, there's a rebuttable presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of a child

Are Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized?


Are a Child's Own Wishes Considered?


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.

District of Columbia Child Custody Laws: Related Resources

For additional information and resources, please click on the links listed below.

Find Out How D.C. Child Custody Laws Apply to You: Talk to a Lawyer

It can be difficult for couples to agree on child custody decisions, especially if they're in the middle of getting a divorce. If you'd like help with your child custody case, it's best to speak with an experienced child custody attorney who can explain and protect your rights under District of Columbia child custody laws.

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