Legal Separation in Washington, DC

In Washington, DC, parties have the right to petition the court for a legal separation instead of getting a divorce. There are a variety of reasons one might choose a legal separation instead of an absolute divorce, as it called by lawyers who handle family law cases.

One of the most common reasons a party to a marriage will opt to get a legal separation instead of a divorce is if that individual practices a religion that strongly opposes divorce.  Having a legal separation granted by the court means that you have a legal right to live apart from your spouse and petition the court for child custody, child visitation, alimony or spousal support, and child support.

What are the Requirements of a Legal Separation in Washington, DC?

One of the most common questions asked of Washington, DC divorce attorneys is what are the legal requirements of getting separated from a marriage?  To answer this question, we can turn to § 16–904 of the D.C. Code. This is the same section that covers grounds for divorce and annulment in the District of Columbia.

Pursuant to the D.C. Code, the court can grant a legal separation from a marriage if both parties to the marriage have mutually and voluntarily lived separate and apart without cohabitation or both parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year before filing for a legal separation.

The difference between the two requirements depends on whether the parties have agreed to live separate and apart.  If one spouse just decides to leave, and the other spouse does not support or otherwise agree with the decision, it would take a year of living apart before either spouse could petition the court for a legal separation.  These are essentially the same factors that establish grounds in a Washington, DC divorce case.

One thing that is important to note is that, regardless of the situation, if you decide to leave your spouse and have minor children, you cannot just leave with the children.  While this is often something we see on television or in the movies, it could result in serious legal consequences if you did this in real life.  For that reason, you should speak with an experienced Washington, DC divorce attorney before moving out of your house with or without your children to prevent future legal issues.

Can I get Remarried if I am Legally Separated in Washington, DC?

One of the questions people ask when considering a legal separation in the District of Columbia is whether or not they can get remarried while they are separated.  The answer is no.  This is simply because you will still be married to the first spouse, and, in Washington, DC, you are only allowed to have one spouse at a time.

You may be wondering whether it is really worth getting a legal separation when the grounds are the same as getting a divorce.  For most people, the answer is no.  It is better to simply get a divorce if you no longer wish to be married to your spouse.  However, if you are really concerned about a potential social stigma with getting a divorce or your religion does not allow for a divorce, and those religious laws or values are important to you, then getting a legal separation may be the correct course of action.

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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