Property Distribution in Washington, DC Divorce Cases

Property division is often one of the most heavily litigated aspects of a Washington, DC divorce case.  This makes sense, since both parties want to get as much of the marital property as possible in many cases.

Property Division Law in DC

In Washington, DC, the City Council has created what is known to divorce attorneys as an “equitable distribution” system. Under an equitable distribution system, the court will first look to see whether the parties can agree between themselves how property should be divided.

Property Settlement Agreement

In the District of Columbia, the parties can enter into a Property Settlement Agreement.  This agreement can include a detailed description of what property is considered part of the marital estate and how the parties have agreed it should be divided.  The Property Settlement Agreement can also list all marital debts and decide who should pay what portion of each debt.

While a detailed Property Settlement Agreement can make matters a lot simpler and reduce the amount of litigation, thus keeping costs down, it is essential that you allow your experienced Washington, DC divorce lawyer to draft and negotiate the agreement.  There is a lot of legal language in these agreements, which people without an attorney may neglect to include, and this can have a devastating effect should there be any problems later. One of these complicated issues has to do with how the agreement is incorporated into the final divorce decree but not merged.

Equitable Distribution Factors

If the parties cannot agree on how their marital property should be divided, the court will decide on what distribution is equitable in light of the situation.  It should be noted, the judge has a great deal of discretion when fashioning an equitable distribution remedy, and it is also important to keep in mind that equitable does not necessarily mean equal.  Some of the factors the court will use when determining how to divide property in a Washington, DC divorce pursuant to D.C. Code § 16–910 are as follows:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • The age of the parties.
  • The income of parties.
  • Provisions for custody of minor children.
  • Whether a property distribution is being made instead of spousal support.
  • Each party’s contribution to the home as homemaker.
  • Tax consequences of the distribution.

There are of course many other factors, but these are several of the more common ones.  You may be wondering why the parties’ income would matter, but this is because the judge is striving for an equitable result, though not necessarily an equal result in a Washington, DC divorce case. You may also have noticed that title to the property was not listed as a factor.  This is because in many cases, it does not matter whose name the property is titled under, because how the parties used the property during the marriage is more important than whose name is on the title.  For example, if a wife used a certain car all the time, the fact that it was titled in her husband’s name might not have any effect on how the court makes a determination as to who should get that car.

The family law attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group have years of experience handling domestic relations cases in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (202) 609-7446.

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