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FAQ: Can I Get a Divorce in DC?

Authored By: Children's Law Center
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FAQ:

Can I file for divorce in D.C.?

You can file for divorce in D.C. if either you OR your spouse has been a resident of D.C. for six months immediately before the date you file the divorce case with the court. Only one of you has to meet this six-month D.C. residency requirement. In order to be granted a divorce, you will also have to meet the eligibility requirements for a divorce.

I was not married in D.C. Does that matter?

It does not matter where you were married.  If either you OR your spouse has been a resident of D.C. for six months before you file for divorce, you can get a divorce through the D.C. court.  

Am I eligible for a divorce?

The requirements for divorce are called grounds. There are two grounds for divorce in D.C.

  1. separation without cohabitation for six months, if the separation is mutual and voluntary – in other words, if you and your spouse agree to separate, OR
  2. separation without cohabitation for one year.  

In other words, if you and your spouse agree on the separation and divorce, you only have to be separated for six months.  If one of you does not agree to the separation and divorce, then the required separation period is one year.

What does “without cohabitation” mean?

It means without sexual relations with your spouse. You cannot have sexual relations with your spouse during the separation period.

Do I have to get a legal separation or permission from the court before I can separate from my spouse?

No. You can move out or leave your spouse at any time.

Can I get a divorce if my spouse and I are still living in the same home?

The law allows you to get a divorce if you and your spouse are still living under the same roof during the separation if (1) you can show that you have led “separate lives” even though you are living in the same place, or (2) if you first get a legal (court-ordered) separation.

Does it matter if I committed adultery, or left my spouse? Does it matter if my spouse did that?

Adultery, cruelty or desertion do not affect whether you can get a divorce in D.C. However, this conduct might be taken into consideration in connection with division of marital property, alimony, or custody of children.

Can I file for divorce before we've been separated the full time?

No. You have to be separated the required time before you file.

Can I get a divorce if my spouse does not agree to it?

Yes. If you have been separated for a year without cohabitation, you can get a divorce even if your spouse does not agree to it.

Can I get a divorce if my spouse refuses to cooperate or refuses to participate in the process?

Yes. Read Filing For Divorce to find out how.

Last Review and Update: Jan 01, 2017