Understanding the Changes to DC Divorce Law
There has been a major change to existing divorce law in the District of Columbia that is now the official law in the District of Columbia.
Even though the new law removes the long-standing requirement that you have to be separated for a period of time to be able to file for divorce (six months if the separation was mutual and voluntary or one year if it was not) you need to consider what is best in your situation before filing. Consult first with a DC divorce attorney so you know all of your options.
Under the new law you only need to indicate that you no longer wish to be married in order to file for divorce. In addition, it permits the filing for a Legal Separation by saying that you “intend to pursue a separate life” even if you do not intend to divorce. It also permits a Judge to award “exclusive use of a family home or other dwelling unit” to one spouse even if the home is being used as your residence no matter what you and your spouse’s interests are in the home.
The court will also be able to consider the additional factor of “physical, emotional, or financial abuse” by one spouse against the other when determining how to divide marital property and whether to award alimony.
Even though you will be able to file more quickly this does not mean that you should file before you pursue an out-of-court resolution of the issues. The new law does not change the court process that is usually more expensive, more stressful, and more time-consuming than filing after you have a Separation Agreement in place. It just permits a quicker filing.
There are other changes in the law and it is best to consult with a DC Divorce lawyer to understand how the changes affect you in your specific situation. You also may want to mull over your decision to separate and not file immediately. It is always best to first try to resolve all marital issues amicably out of court before filing. The process is less expensive and you maintain control over your own life. Then if you wish….you may file immediately after signing a Separation Agreement (Marital Settlement Agreement) under the new law.
To help you understand and navigate the divorce process and the new DC divorce law it is best to speak with a DC Divorce lawyer. You will then be able to make an informed decision about moving forward with a Separation Agreement (Marital Settlement Agreement) before using the court process to resolve the issues.
Contact me if you would like to discuss the particulars of your situation.