Obtaining a D.C. divorce if you are not a citizen of the United States

John is a citizen of Canada and so is his wife, Jane. John and Jane have been permanent residents of Washington, D.C. for nearly seven (7) years, and both have “green cards” through their employment in D.C. John and Jane decide that their marriage isn’t working anymore, but both of them want to keep their jobs and remain residents of Washington. Can both John and Jane get divorced in D.C. even though they are citizens of Canada? Will they be allowed to remain in D.C. after they get divorced?

While most people think you have to be an American citizen to obtain a divorce in the United States, this is not the case. Your immigration status or nationality is irrelevant in determining whether you can obtain, a divorce in the states. What is important is whether you meet the residency requirements for the jurisdiction, in which you want to get divorced in.

In Washington, D.C., you must be a bona fide resident of D.C. before you can obtain a divorce. To be a bona fide resident, you must have lived in Washington for at least six (6) months prior to petitioning for a divorce and have the intent to remain (indefinitely) in D.C.

So, in the case of John and Jane, both would be considered bona fide residents because they have lived in D.C. for 7 years, and want to remain living there while continuing their employment. Assuming the couple has lived separate and apart for the requisite period of time (6 months if the separation is mutual, 1 year if either of the parties’ objects to the separation), then John or Jane can petition the court for a divorce.

Now, if Jane does not want to get divorced, she can make John’s life difficult by alleging that John is not a bona fide resident of D.C.; rather, John is in D.C. temporarily for his employment. In this case, the court will look into other factors evincing John’s connection to D.C., such as: whether John has registered a vehicle, whether John owns property, whether John has a D.C. driver’s license, whether John pays taxes, etc. If John is able to produce this evidence, the court will likely find that John is a bona fide D.C. resident and permit the divorce.

Whether or not you are a citizen of the United States and are considering divorce, or have any other family aw issue, you should consult with one of the family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group. Our lawyers are experienced with all family law issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. Contact us today at (703) 370-5555 or visit our website.

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