From the Forum – Divorce in DC

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Divorce in DC – can you recommend lawyers or other resources?:

“Hi all: Has anyone been through a divorce in DC or have a knowledge of the process? City websites have not been useful thus far. It would likely be a No Fault divorce, if I understand the terms correctly. We’ve been married ~2yrs, both live in DC, have no children or joint financial accounts. Only major joint expense is home we purchased in 2009.

As we’re on fairly good terms, I’d like to keep the process as fast and cheap as possible, hence considering mediation and/or No Fault, but I’ve also been advised to first consult w/an expert, and one that has my interests in mind to someone that has my interests in mind. (Plus, its just easier to talk w/a real person sometimes.) Also may want to hire someone to do the paperwork.

So: anyone done this before? Any recs on info resources, lawyers, etc? Tips, things to watch out for? Any help much appreciated. I feel overwhelmed.”

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15 Comment

  • I’m sorry for what you’re going through. even in the best of circumstances, it’s always a tough situation.

    I highly, highly recommend you contact the Women’s Center in Vienna, VA ( They were a HUGE help for me when I divorced. They offer a whole range of things to help from a series of seminars on how to go about divorce to a network of therapists they can refer you to.

    Every situation is different but after learning the process and talking with many people, we paid someone (a lawyer) to do the paperwork/filings. Although we were struggling financially, it was a few hundred dollars well spent. Yes, we could have done it ourselves but the lawyer does this every day and knew exactly what to write and where, exactly what to say and when.

    Good luck.

  • I’ve done this. It sucks, but being on good terms and doing it no fault w/o kids or major financial entanglements is best case scenario (and was my scenario as well).

    We did it with the help of a mediator, who sat with us 3-4 times to discuss, and then drafted all of the paperwork. It was a huge help, and very much on the cheap compared to lawyers. I’d recommend her but I’d rather do it confidentially. I too went to see a divorce lawyer (as did my ex) with the same thought you have: talk to someone who has YOUR interest in mind. But what we found is that they don’t have your interest in mind — they have THEIR interest in mind. It was an awful experience made worse by having to spend hundreds of dollars on it. I felt like the lawyer was trying to incite anger and greed in me, and some of her claims were outright false/outrageous. Maybe not all divorce lawyers are such shameless hounds, but based on my (and my ex’s) experience, I’d stick to mediation.

    Good luck! It gets better, I swear.

  • In DC it is VERY easy to get a divorce. I recently went through a no-fault divorce with kids, with no lawyers, no mediation, nothing. We agreed to a separation and custody arrangement and that was it. If neither of you is going to make any financial claims on the other, all you have to do is be separated six months and file. The paperwork is very easy. You can fill it out here print and file. You get a court date the same day, send the paper’s to your soon-to-be-ex. They have a certain point of time to respond, and if it’s truly no fault and there is nothing to decide, it will be a quick and painless process.

  • Sorry if this posts twice, but it looks like my first answer was swallowed in the abyss of the internet…

    I recently went through a divorce; our was financially uncomplicated but we do have children. We were able to come to an agreement on our own, so there was no need for mediation or lawyers. In DC, it is very easy to get a no fault divorce. Simply agree on terms, fill this out and file at the court house. You’ll get a court date the same day, and then you send the papers to your soon-to-be-ex. Once received, they have a certain number of days to respond. If they don’t contest anything, the hearing proceeds as ordered. My ex didn’t even attend our hearing. It was all relatively painless, and cost me less than $85 between the filing fee and certified mail.

    • I am an attorney (albeit practicing in something completely different from family law) and chose this process for myself. We had no kids, joint assets all liquid. Husband chose not to be represented. Spent less than $100, took less than a month.

  • did you check Yahoo! Answers? lots of helpful information there.

  • In my experience (20 years as a lawyer), if you get lawyers involved you complicate things and make it $$$. The problem is lawyers’ incentive is to maximize your take, not your satisfaction. A mediator is there to maximize your satisfaction. Get out of it with as little drama as possible and it will be worth ten times any money or assets you left o the table.

    • On the flip side, what makes you happy today may make you bitter in a year when you realize you left assets and money on the table that you were entitled to. It doesn’t sound like that is going to be an issue here, but for many, you may not realize exactly what you’re entitled to when assets are not so neatly divisible.

  • I was in a similar situation and was able to do the whole thing with the information provided by DC publicly. They have a monthly seminar on weekends that you can go and get all the paperwork and information you need to complete the process. It was very straightforward and simple. If you both agree and your spouse is willing to fill out certain forms, you can even file and go to court without both of you having to be there. It looks like there is one tomorrow from 10-12.

  • I’ve been through the process too. Here’s my advice:

    DC Courts offer free legal clinics and one of them is in divorce. There, a lawyer with walk you through all the steps in the process.

    I’d recommend engaging a lawyer, but only minimally. Come to an agreement with your spouse about how to divide up all joint assets (don’t forget about things like income earned while married, retirement account contributions, taxes accrued, equity in a vehicle, etc.). At that point, it’s probably worth having a lawyer look at the agreement to make sure you didn’t overlook anything serious.

    Then when you fill out the paperwork, you can elect to have the agreement incorporated into the judgement, which means that the judge will order you both to follow through with it.

    Disclaimer: not a lawyer.

  • All divorce in DC is no fault, and mediation is a great, low-cost tool to help resolve issues. The DC Bar clinic already posted is a great place to start, as is the Family Court Self-Help Center, located on the JM level of D.C. Superior Court, to learn about the process. Here is information about MultiDoor Mediation, Superior Court’s free mediation service: Most family judges will send you to mediation after your complaint for absolute divorce is filed to work out any contested issues, but I believe that you can go before you file a complaint as well, so it may be worth contacting them. Most parties go through the divorce process unrepresented, but a lawyer will help you talk through options and will know the process. I have not engaged the services of a family law lawyer, but personal recommendations or the Washingtonian’s Top Lawyers for family law/divorce are a good place to start to make sure that you get a lawyer who knows DC law and family court.

  • I went through it several years ago – amicable, no kids, etc. It was really simple because we were able to sort out together what we felt was fair and then had lawyers take care of the paperwork. It was expensive but if you feel more comfortable that way, then I’d recommend it. It was also less expensive for me since his lawyer did the bulk of the paperwork (my lawyer had to redo some of it because his lawyer was horrible). Once the paperwork is filed, its approx. 6 months until you go to court and then its over in a blink of an eye. This was a very sad and stressful time and I didnt want to add to it with paperwork etc so you may want to consider the lawyer option.

    Wishing you the best of luck.

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