Marriage is a social, emotional, and financial relationship as well as a legal one. When you divorce, you do more than sever the legal relationship of your marriage; you must untangle those other threads as well so that you can move forward with your life on a firm footing.
Because divorce impacts so many aspects of your life, and because it is usually a completely unfamiliar process, it can be overwhelming, even paralyzing. At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we provide you with the support, guidance, advice, resources, tools, and advocacy that will allow you to navigate the divorce process. We work tirelessly to advance your objectives and meet your goals so that you can confidently open the next chapter of your life.
Knowledge is power. When you don’t know what to expect in an unfamiliar situation, you must constantly remain on high alert for threats. When you are prepared for what lies ahead, however, you are better equipped to make good decisions as the process unfolds. We not only empower you with information for the divorce process, we actively strategize to anticipate and head off any threats to a successful outcome.
One of the ways we prepare our clients for divorce is to help them understand the language of divorce and to offer them a predictive roadmap for the process, including options and consequences, so that they can assume control of how the next chapter of their life will unfold. We also help with advising you on tactics and strategy, gathering relevant information, marshalling arguments, engaging other expert professionals (e.g. accountants, child specialists, private investigators, etc.) conducting negotiations, and when needed, representing you in court.
As in most jurisdictions, there is a residency requirement to file for divorce in D.C. At least one spouse must have resided continuously in the District for six months prior to one member of the couple filing for divorce. Military service members meet this residency requirement if they have resided continuously in the District for six months during their service. So long as one spouse meets the residency requirement, and has abandoned any prior permanent residence (or “domicile”) in another jurisdiction, either may file for divorce in the District.
The District of Columbia is a “no fault” jurisdiction. That means that neither spouse needs to prove wrongdoing on the part of the other in order to be granted a divorce. There are only two “grounds” (or “legally good enough reasons”) for divorce in D.C.: mutual and voluntary separation for six (6) months prior to filing for divorce, or living separately for 12 months before filing the divorce. Neither party needs to obtain a legal separation before filing for divorce; the only requirement is that the couple live separate and apart. Interestingly enough, this requirement can even be met if the couple are living under the same roof, so long as they are living separate lives like roommates, not a couple, and do not have any romantic involvement with each other.
If the residency requirement is met and there are grounds for divorce, one spouse (called the “plaintiff”) may file a Complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The plaintiff serves the other spouse (the “respondent”) with the documents and the respondent files an answer, or the plaintiff may request a default judgment.
Regardless of whether you first file a complaint for divorce, or simply discuss divorce with your spouse, in most situations you will want to begin working toward a cooperative solution in the form of a settlement agreement. The great majority of divorces are resolved by cooperative agreement. You may reach settlement by negotiating directly with your spouse or with the help of your attorneys. You may also work toward agreement using alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation or Collaborative Divorce.
However, you should note that a settlement is only reached if both parties agree. One party cannot compel the other party to reach a settlement. If no agreement is reached, then that means no resolution can be had without the ruling of a court. Accordingly, if at least one party has grounds and filed a complaint for divorce with the court, and attempts to arrive at a settlement agreement are unsuccessful, your divorce will go to trial. At the time of trial a judge will consider the evidence and testimony and make a decision regarding any unresolved issues.
Your choice of attorneys has a profound impact upon how swiftly and effectively your divorce matter may be resolved and what your experience of the process will be. An experienced, thoughtful, and strategic attorney can not only help you navigate the entirety of the divorce process, but can help you better achieve your ultimate goals.
One of the first and most important choices you will make in your D.C. divorce matter is selection of the attorney with whom you will work. Here are some of the reasons clients choose to work with Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, and refer others to us:
We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation to discuss your individual situation and learn how we can help you during every stage of the D.C. divorce process.