25 Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
- Residency requirements
- Grounds for divorce
- What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?
- What are the requirements to get a legal separation?
- How do I turn my legal separation into a divorce?
- Can the court divide property and debt in a legal separation?
- Can court order alimony in a legal separation?
- What is an uncontested divorce
- How does property get divided
- What is marital property
- What is separate property
- How does the court value property?
- How are retirement/pensions divided in a divorce?
- How are retirement/pension funds transferred?
- What is marital debt?
- How does debt get divided?
- How does the court decide alimony claims?
- What is temporary alimony?
- How much alimony will have to pay/How much alimony will I get?
- What types of alimony can be awarded?
- Is alimony tax deductible?
- How do I modify alimony?
- What if my ex refuses to pay alimony that was ordered by the court?
- Can I get alimony even if we aren’t divorced?
- What is separate maintenance?
Q: What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce in Washington, D.C.?
A: One of the parties to the divorce has to have been a resident of the District of Columbia for six months preceeding the filing of the Complaint for Divorce or Legal Separation.
Q: What are the grounds for divorce in Washington, D.C.?
A: There are two grounds for divorce in Washington, D.C. – mutually living separate and apart for six months preceding the commencement of the divorce or both parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year preceding the commencement of the divorce.
Q: What are the requirements to get a legal separation?
A: There are two grounds for legal separation – both parties to the marriage mutually and voluntarily living separate and apart without cohabitation; or both parties to the marriage having lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year preceding the commencement of the action.
Q: How do I turn my legal separation into a divorce?
A: To turn your legal separation into a divorce you have to file a Motion to Enlarge. The court will rule on the motion and in many cases you will not need to appear in court to have the separation turned into a divorce.
Q: Can the Court divide property and debt in a legal separation?
A: Yes, the court has jurisdiction to make property and debt rulings in a legal separation case.
Q: Can the Court order alimony in a legal separation?
A: Yes, the court can award alimony in a legal separation under certain circumstances.
Q: What is an uncontested divorce?
A: An uncontested divorce is one where the two parties to the case have no contested issues to decide and are only asking the Court to grant them a divorce. In many instances uncontested divorce hearings are expedited.
Q: How does marital property get divided in a divorce?
A: The D.C. courts divide property using a process called “equitable distribution.” Equitable distribution is determined through a Judge’s evaluation of a series of factors found in the D.C. Code. Those factors are:
(1) the duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
(2) the age, health, occupation, amount, and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, assets, debts, and needs of each of the parties;
(3) provisions for the custody of minor children;
(4) whether the distribution is in lieu of or in addition to alimony;
(5) each party’s obligation from a prior marriage, a prior domestic partnership, or for other children;
(6) the opportunity of each party for future acquisition of assets and income;
(7) each party’s contribution as a homemaker or otherwise to the family unit;
(8) each party’s contribution to the education of the other party which enhanced the other party’s earning ability;
(9) each party’s increase or decrease in income as a result of the marriage, the domestic partnership, or duties of homemaking and child care;
(10) each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, dissipation, or depreciation in value of the assets which are subject to distribution, the taxability of these assets, and whether the asset was acquired or the debt incurred after separation;
(11) the effects of taxation on the value of the assets subject to distribution; and
(12) the circumstances which contributed to the estrangement of the parties.
Q: What is considered marital property?
A: Marital property is any property that was acquired during the marriage.
Q: What is considered separate property?
A: Separate property is any property that was acquired prior to the marriage.
Q: How does the court value property?
A: The court values property as of the time of the divorce. The court can accept various forms of evidence in regards to what value to assign a piece of property.
Q; What is marital debt?
A: Marital debt is any debt that was acquired during the marriage?
Q: What is separate debt?
A: Separate debt is any debt that was acquired prior to the marriage?
Q: How does marital debt get divided?
A: Marital debt gets divided through the process of equitable distribution.
Q: How are retirement accounts and pensions divided in a divorce?
A: The court will begin by valuing the amount of the account that was acquired during the marriage. That share of the account, referred to as the marital share, is then subject to equitable distribution.
Q: How are retirement account funds transferred?
A: Funds are typically transferred using what is commonly referred to as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. These orders direct the plan administrator to distribute a portion of the account to an alternate payee.
Q: How does the court decide alimony claims?
A: In D.C. there is no statutory calculation for deciding alimony claims. Instead the court only awards alimony if the court finds an award to be “just and proper.” The court uses the following factors to determine if an award of alimony is appropriate:
(1) ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
(2) time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to secure suitable employment;
(3) standard of living that the parties established during their marriage or domestic partnership, but giving consideration to the fact that there will be 2 households to maintain;
(4) duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
(5) circumstances which contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
(6) age of each party;
(7) physical and mental condition of each party;
(8) ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting the needs of the other party; and
(9) financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
(B) income from assets, both those that are the property of the marriage or domestic partnership and those that are not;
(C) potential income which may be imputed to non-income producing assets of a party;
(D) any previous award of child support in this case;
(E) the financial obligations of each party;
(F) the right of a party to receive retirement benefits; and
(G) the taxability or non-taxability of income.
Q: What is temporary alimony?
A: Temporary alimony is alimony that is awarded while the underlying case is still ongoing and before the Judge issues a permanent order in the case. The temporary alimony is meant to be a bridge during the case, and is decided using the same factors listed above.
Q: What types of alimony can be awarded?
A: Courts in D.C. can award temporary alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and permanent alimony.
Q: Is alimony tax deductible?
A: Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 alimony is tax deductible for all alimony orders and agreements that have been put in place through 2018. Alimony will not be tax deductible for alimony orders and agreements made or entered on or after January 1, 2019.
Q: What if my ex refuses to pay alimony that was ordered by the Court?
A: If your ex is not complying with a court order you can petition the court to order compliance and to find your ex in contempt for violating court order.
Q: Can I get alimony if we aren’t divorced?
A: Yes, it is possible to receive alimony if you are only separated and not divorced, and to also receive it while a court case is pending.
Q: What is separate maintenance?
A: Separate maintenance is similar to alimony, but is awarded in cases where there is no legal separation or divorce.
Q: How does the court decide whether to award separate maintenance?
A: The court may grant separate maintenance where a spouse fails or refuses to support the other spouse who is in genuine need.
No Attorney-Client Relationship. Your use of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Firm. You will become a client of the Firm only if and when you sign and engagement agreement setting forth the scope of the Firm’s engagement, the fee arrangement and other relevant matters. As a matter of policy, the Firm does not accept a new client without first investigating for possible conflicts of interests and obtaining a signed engagement letter. (The Firm may, for example, already represent another party involved in your matter.)
No Legal Advice Intended. This ebook includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues problems.