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District of Columbia Divorce Laws

Marriage is meant to be a sacred bond, and the law takes it seriously as well. Couples looking to marry must meet their state or jurisdiction’s legal requirements, often must go through a ceremony or solemnization, and obtain a marriage certificate. All of this has a legal effect as many rights, privileges, and benefits under the law are tied to the marriage state.

Spouses can make life and death decisions for one another, enter into property transactions together, receive tax benefits for being married, and make joint decisions about having and raising children. So naturally, when a marriage ends there is a legal process for finalizing it and making it official. Divorce frees the parties from each other and frees them from all obligations under the law.

Most state divorce requirements have a built-in preference for keeping marriages intact. A waiting period between separation and divorce is common. The often protracted court proceedings required to obtain a divorce can slow things down too. And while no fault divorce exists in every state now, often the circumstances surrounding a divorce can matter when it comes to property distribution and child custody considerations. Here’s a quick summary of the District of Columbia's divorce laws.

District of Columbia Divorce Laws: The Basics

In order to file for a divorce in Washington D.C., one party must have been a bona fide resident of the district for at least six months. There’s a special provision in D.C. law for same sex divorces as well. The District of Columbia will exercise jurisdiction over a same-sex divorce if the marriage was performed in D.C. and neither party resides in a state or jurisdiction that will hear an action for their divorce. For the most part, this applies to married couples resident in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Washington D.C. requires a period of separation before granting a divorce. For couples who mutually and voluntarily separate, a six month separation period is required. When there isn’t a mutual and voluntary separation, a one year period is required before divorce. Separation and divorce petitions are filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and become final once the period for an appeal has passed.

Code Section § 16-901, et seq.
Residency Requirements One party must be a bona fide resident for six months before proceedings.
Waiting Period Divorce not final until the time for appeal is up (16-920).
”No Fault” Grounds for Divorce Voluntary separation (six months) or separation for one year without cohabitation.
Defenses to a Divorce Filing -
Other Grounds for Divorce -

District of Columbia Divorce Laws: Related Resources

You can find more information about legal separation and divorce here at FindLaw. Divorce is a major decision and the legal process is long and complicated. For specific questions, we recommend speaking with a local divorce lawyer.

Get Legal Help with Your D.C. Divorce

Whether you've already decided to get divorced, have just been served with divorce papers, or are considering it, it helps to understand the laws and procedures in your jurisdiction. Get started today by having a D.C.-area divorce lawyer evaluate your situation.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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