Washington, D.C., Divorce Checklist
Whether you or your spouse is filing for a D.C. divorce, you will want to be prepared.
This article will explain the preliminary steps you must take before going through a Washington, D.C., divorce. It will also help you understand how to investigate Washington, D.C., divorce attorneys.
Meet the Washington, D.C., Divorce Requirements
First, you need to make sure you meet the D.C. divorce requirements. Specifically, the District of Columbia has certain residency requirements that must be met before either party can file for divorce in the jurisdiction.
Under the law, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the District of Columbia for at least six months (or active military stationed in D.C. for at least six months) prior to filing for divorce.
In addition, the individual filing for divorce must have sufficient grounds to file. Grounds are the reasons cited for the divorce.
In D.C., there are two types of divorces, each with different sets of grounds. These are no-fault divorces and fault-based divorces.
A no-fault divorce is when neither party claims the other committed any specific wrongdoing that led to the breakdown of the marriage. In the District of Columbia, to get a no-fault divorce, the two parties must have mutually and voluntarily lived separate and apart for at least six months or the two parties must have lived separate and apart for one year prior to filing for divorce. The main difference between these two scenarios is that in the first, the separation is mutual and voluntary; whereas in the second, it is not mutual and voluntary.
A fault-based divorce is where one member of the marriage alleges the other did something wrong that led to the breakdown of the marriage. To get a fault-based divorce in Washington, D.C., the same requirements for a no-fault divorce apply. The only difference is that one spouse is alleging wrongdoing.
If you file a fault-based divorce claim, you will have to prove your spouse committed the wrongdoing that you allege. Examples of wrongdoing often brought up in such cases include domestic violence or adultery.
Hire a Washington, D.C., Divorce Attorney
Once you meet the requirements for divorce, it is time to start investigating D.C. divorce lawyers.
To begin your search process, turn to your friends and family. Ask anyone who has gone through a Washington, D.C., divorce about the attorney they used. Did they like working with their D.C. divorce lawyer? If so, would they recommend him?
You can also use a site like Attorneys.com to find a lawyer. Whether you live in Dupont Circle, Georgetown or another part of Washington, D.C., Attorneys.com can connect you with a D.C. divorce lawyer in your area.
To start the process, fill out the form on this site or call 1-877-913-7222. After answering a few questions, Attorneys.com will connect you with at least one D.C. divorce attorney. The lawyer will contact you within two business days, or you can contact him at your own convenience.
Consult with the Washington, D.C., Divorce Lawyer
Once you have found at least one D.C. divorce attorney you are interested in, set up an initial consultation. An initial consultation is a preliminary meeting where you get to sit down and speak to the attorney to get to know him and his practice, discuss your divorce case and decide whether to hire the lawyer.
You will want to come to your consultation prepared with a list of questions to ask the attorney. Also, remember to bring pen and paper so that you can take notes. Questions you should consider asking include:
- How long have you handled D.C. divorce cases?
- What is your opinion of my case? What strategy would you propose for handling it?
- Do you have experience with child custody and child support issues?
- What type of fee arrangement do you use? Can you estimate the total cost to handle my divorce?
Once you have spoken with the attorney, you should be able to make a hiring decision. If you are still having trouble deciding, ask to speak to some of his past clients. After speaking to these references, decide whether to hire the lawyer.
Filing for a D.C. Divorce
If you meet the Washington, D.C., divorce requirements and have a D.C. divorce attorney, then you are ready to file for divorce.
To initiate the divorce process, either you or your spouse must file the complaint for divorce. The complaint for divorce is the official document that begins the divorce process. The complaint must be filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia-Family Division.
Once the documents are filed, the other spouse will receive a copy and will be given a chance to respond.
If it is a no-fault divorce and both parties agree to the terms of the dissolution (such as child support, child custody, parental visitation and asset and debt division), then the divorce process will be expedited.
If, however, there is disagreement between the two parties regarding these issues, the court will schedule a hearing to resolve the disagreements. Usually, if it is a no-fault divorce, it is in the best interest of both spouses to try to come to an agreement prior to going to trial. The divorce trial process can be long and expensive. Talk to your lawyer and see if you can negotiate with your spouse to come to an agreement.