WASHINGTON DC DIVORCE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 How long after separation a divorce action can be filed?

Within six months if the separation is mutual and voluntary or one year if NOT mutual or voluntary.

legal separation v. divorce, what is the difference?

Legal separation action may be filed prior to the 6 months statutory waiting period, and such actions would be seeking the assistance of  the court to order either spousal support, or temporary legal or physical custody of the children all pendente lite (that is during the litigation).

How does allegations of domestic violence or intra family offenses impact the divorce proceedings?

It can tip the presumption of joint physical and legal custody among parents shifting the burden on the party accused of domestic violence to show placement with her/him is in fact in the best interests of the child(ren).

What is consequence of divorce on the children?

The court upon filing of the divorce action will have also jurisdiction to rule on child custody and to grant legal and physical custody as appropriate.

How are the marital property divided?

When contested and court involved, the marital property is distributed based on “equitable distribution” of property criteria.  Essentially the court will apply an equitable remedy in divided and distributing all marital property.

What is marital property?

Technically, all property acquired after the marriage.

If the home we reside in is our primary residence, then would that be automatically a marital property?

Most likely, unless excluded under an enforceable pre-marital agreement.

What is a separation agreement and how does an agreement shortcut the divorce process?

Agreement drafted by the parties to resolve and dispose of all pending issues in divorce or separation, including child custody, support, alimony and division of property.

Not happy with marriage and want annulment instead of divorce, how does that work?

To obtain annulment after marriage, certain legal criteria and elements have to be met, namely: fraud, insanity, previous marriage, not age of legal consent.

My husband makes more money than me, would I be entitled to alimony?

Most likely but not necessarily.  Alimony equation and calculations are complex and many factors are considered in addition to disparity in income.  Refer to our alimony page for more details.

How does the court award child support and what criteria is used?

Award of child support is generally a mathematical equation extrapolate through the child support guidelines.  Refer to our Child Support Page for more detailed analysis.

My settlement agreement is incorporated but not merged into the divorce decree – what does that mean?

That means that enforcement of the agreement will be through civil remedies and not family court system.  If merged, the family court will have the ability to modify and change terms as requested and when appropriate.

My spouse made a financial contribution to my property I acquired prior to the marriage – does this become a marital property?

Property acquired prior to marriage generally not a martial property, however, if the property is the primary residence, and there is shared expense and contributions toward the property including mortgage, expenses, and repair then the property may have morphed into a marital property unless excluded under a pre-marital agreement.

How do you access hidden assets in divorce proceeding?

Diligently.  There is no such thing as hidden assets as the discovery process and when necessary investigative work should reveal all viable assets.

Do I need to disclose all my finances during divorce?

Those that are not excluded under a pre-marital agreement most likely would be subject of scrutiny.   There are legal ways to exclude assets and income from the marriage pot and a well-crafted pre-marital agreement should protect such assets.

Is DC a fault or a no-fault jurisdiction?

No fault, the statute does not require any findings of fault, but DC is an equitable distribution of property jurisdiction and in equity all is considered.

What are the residency requirements for filing a divorce action?

At least one of the parties has been a resident of the District six months or more prior to filing.

Would the separation period (6 months) prior filing of the divorce action be tolled if we share bed and board during the period?

Most likely yes and the Statute requires separate lives not sharing bed or board with no intentions of evidence of rekindling the relationship.

What happens to my retirement funds/accounts during the divorce, are they marital property?

Depends, if there is joint contribution or using of funds from the accounts for marital purposes then potentially subject to “equitable distribution” but ordinarily such accounts are excluded particularly if clearly listed as separate and non-martial in an enforceable pre-nuptial agreement.

Are social media, text messages and emails admissible evidence in divorce proceedings?

Depends if the evidence can be properly authenticated and its reliability established through the rules of evidence.

PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS FAQ

Is a prenuptial agreement necessary as have limited assets?

Yes, because as marriage progresses and advances disposition of assets will change and it important to have protection in place early on.

Can I just deal with the prenuptial agreement after the marriage — postnuptial agreement?

Yes, but not recommended as incentive to negotiate may no longer be present and also conflict and discord may arise while negotiating the agreement post marriage.

Does everything — all my earnings after marriage become part of marital property?

Yes and no, depends on first the drafted exclusions and exceptions in the prenuptial agreement, and secondly, based on how assets are treated after the marriage among parties.

Can the inheritance be excluded under the premarital agreement?

In most cases — YES — there are exception though.

How about retirement accounts?

Yes as well, however if the retirement accounts are commingled or funds from accounts used for marital purposes then there may be claims against such accounts.

What about my business developed and established before marriage?

As long the exclusionay language is detailed, enforceable and reasonable.   However, if after marriage there are meaningful contributions to the business entity by the spouse giving rise to business growth and earning potential then there may be claims against the business by the contributing spouse.

Can alimony be limited and negotiated through a prenuptial agreement?

Yes — but if unreasonable and overly protective then it may be challenged.

Can child support be negotiated in a prenuptial agreement?

Absolutely not.

Can real estate already owned and purchased be excluded under the prenuptial agreement?

Yes but again if there is marital use of the property in question, and contributions to mortgage, repairs and expenses — then property may be open to claims.

Would a prenuptial agreement be enforceable if there is no financial disclosure along with the agreement?

Substantially less enforceable as the full and complete financial disclosure is a prerequisite to providing both notice and information needed to negotiate in good faith an agreement that basically at its core deals with finances and assets.

Can the agreement be drafted by my lawyer and presented to my spouse with no other input from the opposing counsel?

Yes however less likely to be enforceable and the conscionability clause requires that both parties are well informed and advised by separate counsel.

Can the agreement be drafted and forwarded day or hours before marriage?

Yes, but if the other side does not have sufficient time to review, retain counsel and reflect — all weigh on the enforceability of the agreement and the equity and fairness of the process.

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Refer to our Washington DC Divorce page for more detailed information on divorce actions.

Refer to our Washington DC Division of Property page for more information on equitable distribution of property.

Refer to our Washington DC Alimony page for details and elements the court considered to grant alimony.

Contact our Washington DC Divorce Lawyer to schedule an intake appointment to discuss the specifics of your case.