Divorce in the District of Columbia
Unique legalities, common circumstances
Even though “the District” has its own set of unique legal circumstances, in that it belongs to no state and is ultimately governed by Congress (even though it does have a mayor and city council) its residents are no different than those of other states when it comes to the basic advice about divorce: namely, it’s almost always a good idea to hire a compatible, experienced and trained divorce attorney.
Even an uncontested divorce can benefit from an attorney’s help in ensuring that the divorce action is legal and that the decree is enforceable. Most certainly an attorney is necessary in a contested divorce, which usually involves children (including custody and support issues) or division of significant assets, or both.
Pain, grief and the benefit of counseling
Another commonality is the value of counseling. Even if both agree that the relationship has run its course, divorce can wreak emotional trauma and grief. It can feel like a death in the family and ripple outward in waves of grief far beyond the couple at the center–especially if children are involved. A good attorney can help with referrals to the most appropriate sorts of counseling.
Ending domestic violence
Most important is to address domestic violence: Experts agree that if domestic violence is part of the family equation, the first step should be to get everyone involved to a safe place and end the violence. Once again, a good attorney can be invaluable.
In the District, the Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Unit “hears cases in which parties request protection orders against persons related by blood, legal custody, marriage, having a child in common, sharing of the same residence (currently or in the past), having a romantic dating relationship (currently or in the past), parties with a partner in common (currently or in the past), or parties who claim they have been stalked. Judges in the Domestic Violence Unit also hear cases alleging violations of protection orders and all misdemeanor criminal cases involving an ‘intrafamily offense.’ When appropriate, judges in the Domestic Violence Unit also adjudicate related divorce, custody, visitation, paternity and support cases involving the same parties, as well as certain related civil actions.”
Online resources in the District
Other online resources include:
- the Superior Court’s Domestic Relations Branch;
- the Family Court Self-Help Center;
- Family Court Operations;
- a free divorce clinic;
- pro se (without a lawyer) guidance, via the DC Bar Association; and
- the DC code governing divorce, separation, annulment, support, etc.
We can help, too. If you’re ready to begin the search for a compatible, well trained, experienced divorce attorney, you can start with our free case evaluation. If you need more information, please browse our site, using the tabs at the top of the page.
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