Washington D.C. Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

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Updated November 23, 2022

A Washington D.C. marital settlement agreement outlines the terms of a divorce, agreed upon by both parties through a process outlined below. The agreement is a written contract that divides property and determines alimony payments, as well as child support.

Table of Contents

Divorce Laws

Statutes – D.C. Code, Title 16, Chapter 9 (Divorce, Annulment, Separation, Support, Etc.)


Alimony (§ 16–913) – In determining the terms of spousal support (alimony), the court will consider the following factors:

  • the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
  • time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain enough education or training to secure suitable employment;
  • the standard of living the parties established while married;
  • the duration of the partnership;
  • circumstances surrounding the divorce;
  • each party’s age, physical condition, and mental state;
  • the needs of two households; as well as
  • each party’s income, assets, financial obligations, retirement plans, and taxes.

Child Support (§ 16–916.01) – D.C. courts follow guidelines to determine child support payments that are equitable, considerate of the needs of each parent, and gender-neutral.

Division of Property (§ 16–910) – In the absence of a valid prenuptial agreement, the court returns to each party any property acquired prior to the partnership and then distributes all other property and debt in a manner determined to be equitable, just, and reasonable. The District of Colombia does not follow the “community property” rule, which posits that all property gets divided in half and distributed equally, but instead pursues the principle of equitable distribution.

Grounds for Divorce (§ 16–904) – There are two (2) grounds for divorce in D.C. The court will grant a divorce if two partners who are mutually and voluntarily willing to split have lived separately for at least six (6) months. If one of the partners does not agree to the separation, then the court requires the parties to have lived separately for at least one (1) year.

Interim Support (§ 16–911) – While the divorce case is pending, the court may grant what’s known as pendente lite alimony, or interim financial support, to one of the parties.

Residency (§ 16–902) – In order to qualify for divorce, one of the parties must have been a bona fide resident of the District of Colombia for at least six months before filing.

How to File for Divorce in Washington D.C.

Divorce Forms

If a divorce is uncontested:

If not:

If there are children:

Step 1 – Petition for Divorce

To file for divorce, fill out a Complaint for Divorce and a document included in it called a summons. Locate an original copy of the marriage certificate, which can be obtained at the Marriage Bureau at the D.C. Superior Court. Anyone who files for divorce will have to be able to prove that s/he and her/his partner have been living separately.

Step 2 – Parenting Documents

If there are children, fill out Attachments A, B, and C.

Step 3 – File for Divorce

Once the forms have been completed, take them to the Central Intake Center at the Moultrie Courthouse on 500 Indiana Avenue NW. A clerk will stamp them forms and provide a Notice of Initial Hearing, which includes a case number, as well as information about when to appear in court.

Step 4 – Serve the Papers 

If spouses do not file mutually and jointly, papers must be served on one spouse. This can be done in several ways. An adult not involved in the proceeding can personally hand the paperwork to the receiving spouse; note the other spouse can’t do this. The paperwork can also be sent via certified mail, and a return receipt should be requested. If the spouse filing for divorce doesn’t know where the other party is, s/he can publish a weekly notice in two newspapers for three weeks. The newspaper will send proof of publication to the court. The filing spouse has sixty (60) days to serve the paperwork before it expires. At that point, an Affidavit of Service can be filed at the Central Intake Center, which is a sworn statement that the other party has been served with papers.

Step 5 – Respond to Petition

The receiving spouse must file a response using a Contested Answer to a Complaint. This must be done within 21 days.

Step 6 – Settlement Agreement

The Family Court offers a free mediation service through the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division, which can help both parties to reach a settlement agreement. Otherwise, the parties will attend court, and a judge will review the facts of the case.

Step 7 – Court Ruling

A copy of the divorce order will be provided after the hearing if the divorce is granted. The divorce will be final thirty (30) days after so ordered by a judge. Either party can file an appeal within that time. If neither party appeals to the divorce and it becomes final, the next step is to consider changing a last name.