Divorces in the District of Columbia might vary greatly in terms of whether or not they’re contested or uncontested. A divorce that is uncontested means that all difficulties stemming from the marriage have been resolved and that the spouses have no remaining points of contention.

When it comes to divorce, the legal procedure is the most important distinction between an uncontested divorce and a disputed divorce. Divorce attorneys’ fees and expert witness expenses (such as financial consultants or appraisers) are more expensive for couples going through a disputed divorce than for couples who agree on the majority of divorce-related matters.


There are two types of divorces:[A.]  a contested divorce and [B.] an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are the most common kind of divorce, in which the parties agree on all aspects of the divorce settlement, including but not limited to the division of assets and liabilities, child custody, spousal support, and other aspects of the divorce (‘alimony’).

The second kind of divorce, known as a ‘contested divorce,’ occurs when the parties are unable to come to an agreement on their divorce concerns and must take their case to court, where a judge will make the final judgments. If the spouses dispute on any aspect of the divorce, the court will label it ‘contested.’

The law in many places mandates that a divorce be finalized after a specified period of time. When divorcing couples are participating in a contentious divorce, they may have to wait longer than in an uncontested divorce for the court to make a final decision on all of the divorce-related matters. As a consequence, a non-contentious divorce is not only less expensive but also concludes far more quickly.


In the District of Columbia, an Uncontested Divorce is processed far more quickly than a Contested Divorce. It’s also a lot less expensive for the partners.  The spouses must address all concerns pertaining to the property before they may apply for an uncontested divorce in the District of Columbia. If the individual or their spouse has lived in DC for at least six months prior to filing for divorce, they may be eligible for divorce in DC[1]. DC residence is only required for one of the individuals. Only alimony and the division of marital property may be sought in divorce proceedings. Once the divorce is finalized,  the individuals will no longer be eligible for alimony or a share of the marital assets unless they specifically ask for the same in the case

The parties will need a Marital Settlement Agreement, also known as a Separation Agreement or a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement, in order to petition for an uncontested divorce in DC. The spouses sign and notarize a contract that incorporates all previous agreements.


Negotiating an agreement does not have to take a specific amount of time. Once they have separated, the spouses may begin the process of drafting a Settlement Agreement right away. Divorce lawyers may help to negotiate a settlement with the spouse’s lawyer if they do not really feel comfortable discussing the concerns with their spouse.

In the District of Columbia, a disputed divorce takes far longer to go through the court system than an uncontested divorce, and it also tends to be more costly. Neither users nor a family law or divorce lawyer can achieve an agreement on all of the problems in such a case.

Mediation is normally required before a trial date is established by the court, so it is preferable to try to resolve any differences before filing a lawsuit. In addition to saving both money and time, it will also be less emotionally demanding and allow them more control over the process.

Child custody and child support may be requested as part of a divorce lawsuit. Separately from the divorce proceedings, spouses may also seek child custody and/or child support. It is indeed possible to get a divorce in the District of Columbia but the spouses have to go to another state to petition for child custody or child support. Primarily, the spouses must be separated for at least six months (or one year if one of the parties refuses to consent to the separation and divorce) if the separation is mutual and voluntary (in other words, that they agree to separate).


Divorces that do not go to court are speedier to come to a close than divorces that actually go to court. One may submit a ‘Complaint about Absolute Divorce’ together with the spouse’s ‘Consent Answer’ if their divorce is uncontested. The spouse will not then have to be served with any documentation. One must first submit a ‘Complaint about Absolute Divorce’ in order to proceed with a disputed divorce. A ‘Summons,’ ‘Vital Statistics Form,’ and a ‘Family Court Cross-Reference Form’ must also be completed and served, as must service on the spouse.

In both an uncontested and contentious divorce, the same grievances might be raised. In this form, the individual will notify the court as to whether they are requesting alimony, child custody, child support, or a split of marital property.

Assets and liabilities accrued during a marriage are included in the term ‘marital property[2].’ Personal property (such as a couch or a vehicle) and retirement plan benefits are examples of assets that may be included in an estate plan. Loans, credit card debt and taxes are all examples of debts. Any property or debt, whether owned jointly or solely by one spouse, maybe seized without regard to ownership or payment history in Washington, DC.

The term ‘separate property’ refers to assets that one spouse brought into the marriage but has maintained separately from the other throughout the union. Gifts and inheritances obtained during the marriage but given only to one spouse are also included in the definition of separate property.


The divorce must be filed in the D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Central Intake Center, regardless of whether it is contested or not. When the individual files for divorce, they will have to pay a fee for the filing to go through.  By calling the local court clerk, one may get a list of costs. To get alimony or a share of marital property after the divorce is finalized, individuals must resolve these matters at the time of the divorce itself. The judge may write an order for child custody or child support at a later date if they return to court.

The ‘Application to Proceed Without Pre-Payment of Costs’ may be used to request a fee waiver if someone cannot pay the requisite charge. There are a few things an individual needs to do if their divorce is disputed or the spouse has not filed the complaint and consent response together. Washington, DC allows individuals to serve their spouse in one of three ways: personally, via ‘substitute service at home,’ or by ‘certified mail.’

The term ‘personal service’ refers to the need that the documents be delivered to the spouse by Washington D.C. Process Service,  Substitute service at home implies that a Washington D.C. Process Server must physically deliver the documents to another adult who resides in the spouse’s residence. One may send the documents to their spouse by certified mail with a return receipt requested if they want to utilize ‘certified mail.’

An ‘Affidavit of Service must be completed by the Washington D.C Process Service who served the spouse, which is a sworn declaration regarding how and when the spouse was served. The affidavit must then be submitted to the Family Court Central Intake Center for processing.

For more information on How To Serve Legal Papers in Washington D.C. click on the link.


To get alimony, the spouses must submit financial papers detailing the income and spending. A notary public will need them to swear that the information in their respective financial statements is accurate and to sign their name under penalty of perjury. If the spouses cannot agree on how much alimony to pay or how to split the assets, a judge will make the decision for them following a hearing.

To be eligible for divorce in the District of Columbia, one must fulfill the following criteria: residence, proof of marriage, and grounds for divorce. At the time one files their Complaint about Absolute Divorce, the spouses must have resided in the District of Columbia for at least six months. Before filing for divorce, one must have been living apart from their spouse for at least six months without engaging in any kind of cohabitation (i.e. sexual interactions) after agreeing to separate amicably and willingly.

Spouses must have been living apart, without sexual contact, for at least one year before filing for divorce, whether or not they both consented to separate. Even though the spouses are living in the same home or apartment, they may maintain a different lifestyle. The court will want proof that they shared ‘neither bed nor board’ and that the individuals had their own life apart from one other.


As part of the divorce process, the plaintiff must demonstrate that their marriage is legitimate before the court would issue a divorce. No photocopies of the marriage certificate will be accepted as evidence in this case[3]. A common law marriage does not have a marriage certificate, thus the plaintiff must rely on the testimony of relatives and friends or on documents to establish the existence of a common-law marriage in their claim[4].

In order to apply for divorce in Washington, D.C., individuals do not need a formal separation. Rather than going through the divorce process, couples may obtain a court order setting child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of marital property. Despite the fact that their legal troubles have been handled and they are no longer living together, the couple is still legally married and unable to remarry. As a divorce case progresses, the plaintiff will be required to appear in court and testify, but the defendant will most likely not have to do so. If the divorce is contentious and the parties are unable to agree on a settlement, a trial will be held, and both parties will be required to appear. The plaintiff presents evidence first in a trial.

The individual is considered the plaintiff if they file the lawsuit. A Complaint about Absolute Divorce must be filed. They also need to fill out a summons, a Vital Statistics form, and a cross-reference form for Family Court in addition to the other paperwork. Once the complaint has been filed, the date and time will be set for the first court hearing (also known as the first hearing). As part of the divorce papers that must be served on the husband, they will get that information. Following the filing of the case, the individual must follow precise legal formalities to serve their spouse with the documents.

In a divorce case, if the spouse initiates the proceedings, then the other spouse is the defendant. The individual has twenty-one days from the day they were officially served with a copy of the complaint to submit a response. The filing individual must provide a copy of the response to their spouse once it has been filed. If the court rules in their favor, they will get a copy of the divorce decree in the mail or at the conclusion of the hearing. Thirty days after the day the divorce order is ‘placed on the docket,’ which might be a few days after the hearing, the divorce will be official. Within that thirty-day window, any party may bring an appeal and ask the court to halt (delay) the divorce judgment. As long as the appeal is successful, the order is not finalized. When a stay of execution is rejected, the order stays in place while the appeal is being determined. By filing a Joint Waiver of Challenge, the judge’s order will become final immediately if the partner both agree that they do not wish to appeal it.

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[1] It should not matter where one gets married even if the spouses are not originally from DC.

[2] In order to file for divorce, they will need to fill out and attach ‘Attachment A,’ ‘Attachment B,’ and ‘Attachment C’ papers, which are collectively referred to as attachments to the complaint.

[3] If the spouses were married in Washington, D.C., they may get one at the D.C. Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, room JM-690, which is home to the Marriage Bureau.

[4] One must show that their spouse has been apart for a particular amount of time in order to fulfill the requirement of the ground. For divorce in the District of Columbia, there are only two options: alimony or spousal support.


It’s always difficult to end a marriage, and sometimes divorce seems like it’s insurmountable. There are multiple ways to end a marriage, however, including annulment and legal separation. This article will explore the nature of annulment as an option to end a marriage.


An annulment or a declaration of nullity basically says that the marriage was invalidly contracted and is thus treated as though it never occurred. An annulment can only be granted if the marriage was invalid in the first place. Essentially, the marriage vanishes retroactively, as if they had never been married.

Unlike popular belief, an annulment cannot be granted for a marriage that has yet to be consummated or for a marriage that has lasted for a short time alone. However, an annulment can be granted if one spouse is physically incapable of having sexual relations. When the court does pronounce an annulment, it issues an order of dissolution that divides your property and addresses issues such as child support and child custody.

New York annulment and prohibited marriage laws govern the grounds for annulment (a court ruling that the marriage was never valid in the first place), time limits for obtaining an annulment, and the various scenarios in which a marriage would not be recognized by the state.

So what are the grounds for annulment?

A general rule of thumb for identifying grounds for annulment comes from identifying the defect in the marriage. These can be divided often into four categories

  1. Defect of the form: If the marriage ceremony is invalid 
  2. Defect of contract: If it was not a marriage that was contracted, such as if there was a defect of intent on either side. This can occur if either party lacked the intent to enter into a lifelong, exclusive union, open to reproduction. 
  3. Defect of will: Because of “mental incapacity, ignorance, error about the person, error about marriage, fraud, knowledge of nullity, simulation, conditioned consent, force or grave fear”.
  4. Defect of capacity: If either party were married to another and thus unable to enter into the contract.

New York follows five specific grounds for annulment. A marriage may be annulled if [A.] one or both spouses were under age 18 at the time of the marriage, or [B.] were unable to consent to the marriage due to mental incapacity or [C.]  either spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse or [D.] either spouse was incurably mentally ill for at least five years, or [E.] if the marriage consent was obtained by duress, coercion, or fraud.

Is there a time limit for obtaining an annulment?

No, there is no time limit attached to an annulment. The logical process behind this is that if a marriage is not valid at one point in time, it cannot be held valid later. This, however, also brings in the question of what happens if both spouses are underage at the time of the marriage and whether the marriage would still be invalid once they came of age.

The annulment may be waived if the spouses continue to freely live together (cohabit) after both have reached the age of consent. In a similar vein, annulment on the grounds of mental illness is an option only if the mental illness actually persists. 

If the grounds for the annulment are a physical incapacity to consummate the marriage, an annulment is only an option within five years of the marriage, as long as the incapacity was not known at the time of marriage. Although fraud is grounds for an annulment, fraud can be waived by the spouses continuing to live together after discovering the fraud. Specifically, in a situation where fraud would be sufficient for an annulment, if the innocent spouse discovers the fraud and does not immediately separate and live apart from the offending spouse, the fraud may have been waived and the innocent spouse has ratified the marriage

What are prohibited marriages?

New York does not allow marriages between ancestors and descendants, or siblings, regardless if they’re whole or half-blood. Additionally, Void and Voidable Marriages cannot be considered to be legitimate marriages. This means that if a union is bigamous/polygamous, incestuous, or performed by an unauthorized person, the marriage is immediately void and can never be recognized as valid in the state of New York, which is unlawful. This will be held to be the case regardless of the couple’s wishes. For a voidable marriage, however, one or both spouses has to ask the court to grant an annulment and have to prove they have legal grounds to nullify the marriage. 

An annulment is functionally equivalent to a divorce, but it is significantly harder to obtain an annulment in New York than a divorce. Many couples prefer divorce as it may be granted even if it’s uncontested and based on irreconcilable differences. However, at all points, the grounds for an annulment must be proven.


When the spouses in a marriage decide they want to live apart from each other but follow certain living arrangements per a voluntary, written agreement, the arrangement is called a legal separation. It’s important to note here that legal separation cannot mean merely moving out of the marital home, and will require the separation agreement. If a spouse violates the agreement, the family court can enforce it. Unlike a divorce, a legal separation does not end a marriage.

Often, a legal separation does boil down to a couple who are unsure if they want to get a divorce, or who cannot afford to get divorced or for financial benefits, such as continued health insurance. This is by no means exhaustive, and there may be a significant number of reasons for a legal separation. The terms of the separation agreement having been established, the agreement can be filed in the County Clerk’s Office with the court filing fee. 

However, if there is a disagreement between the spouses as to the separation or its terms, legal action may be initiated to ask the court to order a separation and to establish its terms.

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Simply pick up the phone and call Toll Free (800) 774-6922 or click the service you want to purchase. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to assist you. We can handle all of your process service needs; no job is too small or too large!

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“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives” – Foster, William A


1. N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §140(b-e); N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §24; and 48 N.Y. Jur. 2d Domestic Relations §2441.

2. Domestic Relations Law sections 140

3. DRL 140(f) and DRL 141

4. DRL 140(b)

5. Dom. Rel. §5-7


The long road to divorce can often mean trying to navigate an exhausting and potentially expensive course. Divorce proceedings begin with one spouse bringing a suit for divorce proceedings against the other, the initiating spouse who filed the action for divorce being called the “plaintiff.” The other spouse (the one that needs to respond to the lawsuit for divorce) is called the “defendant.”

An uncontested divorce is the easiest and least troublesome form of divorce available. Meeting the requirements for this means that the individuals involved agree about the need for the divorce, division of property, and the custody of children, if any, amongst other conditions. It must be noted that disagreement on these fronts makes it more difficult to proceed with the action. As the disagreements grow more severe, divorce mediation, collaborative lawyers, or a personal attorney grow more imperative to the issue. Whether one goes to court is dependent on whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce.

What is the residency requirement IN NEW YORK STATE

A prerequisite for divorce in New York is proof of residency, indicating that the individual has lived or been present in New York for a certain minimum period of time. This may be seen in the case that both parties were married over the continuous period of one year, and either one was living in the city at the time. Additionally, it must be noted that the idea of residency covers the fact that the circumstances that are lead to divorce occurred in the city that either one or both spouses lived in for a continuous period of one year.

If both individuals were not married in New York and have never lived as husband and wife there, then one person should have lived there for a continuous period of two years.

The divorce paperwork should be filed in the Supreme Court in the county where the spouses live. The divorce action initiation would require the plaintiff to file a summons or a summons with the complaint. A summons’ purpose is to invite the other party to the legal proceeding; it intimates that the divorce action is underway. A complaint, on the other hand, is a document that details the specific reasons for divorce.

If a summons is served without a complaint, the defendant has 20 days to serve a “Notice of Appearance” on the plaintiff, which notifies the court of the defendant’s participation in the court process. Once the defendant appears in court, the plaintiff has 20 days to serve the defendant with the complaint. If the summons is filed with the complaint, the defendant has 20 days to answer the complaint.

how to serve divorce papers in New York State

In a divorce, the process server delivers the Summons and complaints to the defendant. The server then completes an Affidavit of Service that identifies the recipient, the date, time, and address. In the event, there is no address, place, and manner of service and set forth facts showing that the service was made by an authorized person and in an authorized manner.

The responding party must be served with the Summons to ensure that they are notified of the divorce action. The service method herein would require the divorce paperwork to be handed directly to the individual, a service method called personal service. Often, the affidavit of service in personal service describes the recipient, including details like sex, hair color, etc.

The person serving the papers on the defendant cannot be one of the parties to the case, which means one spouse cannot serve the other. The server can be a friend, relative, or a process server hired by the plaintiff and be at least 18 years old. The defendant completes the acknowledgment of receipt and mails or delivers one copy of it within 30 days from the date of receipt. Process Service is complete on the date the signed acknowledgment of receipt is mailed or delivered to the sender. The signed acknowledgment of receipt proves the service.

how to serve divorce papers by publication in New york State

Service by publication provides constructive notice when one spouse is missing. This order entails a summons and a notice to the defendant in addition to a statement of the nature of the relief sought for the divorce action. This will then be published in a newspaper once in the subsequent three weeks.

Often, this order for a summons service is to be mailed on or before the first day of the aforementioned publication. The caveat to this will be if the person cannot be located even following due diligence taken and if the court allows for the dispensation of this mailing. Adequate care must be taken to find the missing spouse, however.

Grounds for divorce in New York State

New York divorce law changed on August 15, 2010, when Governor David Paterson signed a no-fault divorce into law in New York State. Until 2010, New York recognized divorces only upon fault-based criteria or upon separation. After the amendment, spouses can pursue divorce that is classified as either fault-based or no-fault. In the latter, the only ground necessary to be stated is that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken’ for a period of over six months, indicating the relationship between the spouses cannot be repaired. The fault does not need to be stated, and the court does not need any more justification from the parties.

In contrast to this, fault-based divorce requires wrongdoing on the part of the defendant, which led to the marital bond’s dissolution. The grounds for this are limited, including cruel and inhuman treatment, including physical, mental, or emotional abuse, abandonment for a continuous period of at least one year of constructive abandonment, constructive abandonment, imprisonment for three consecutive years, and adultery. Adultery is difficult to prove as it requires corroborating evidence from a third party; thus, the defendant’s statement that he or she had sexual relations with a third party is not legally admissible to permit the court to grant a divorce to the plaintiff. Furthermore, if the adultery was “condoned,” i.e., the cheated-on party knew about the extra-marital sexual relationship but continued to stay in a marital, conjugal relationship with their spouse, the adultery cannot serve as a cause for divorce.

Today, there aren’t many benefits to filing for a fault-based divorce. However, if your state views fault as a factor in determining alimony or marital property division, it’s something to consider.

The third basis for divorce is also divorce based on separation. The grant of this form of divorce hinges on proof that the two parties lived separately for a year minimum, signing a written agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the separation. The separation agreement is submitted with the summons and the divorce complaint, which will allow the Judge to add the same to the divorce proceedings.

A brief view of alimony in a divorce

Alimony, or spousal support and maintenance, has seen a shift away from lifetime or permanent alimony. This form of alimony is now typically reserved for long-term marriages, and in the current divorce environment, it seems almost obsolete.

One is more apt to see a court award limited duration alimony. Examples of this short-term spousal support could be rehabilitative alimony (given for the period of time allowable for a spouse to enter the workforce viably) or reimbursement alimony (awarded in short marriages where one spouse contributes to the other’s educational pursuits). The determining factor in recent alimony proceedings has been one spouse’s needs weighed against the others’ ability to pay.

In addition to the emotional reasons to resist a divorce, people may have reasons that have to do with money. Ending the marriage allows the court to divide property even if one’s spouse doesn’t agree to do so. Even if you don’t get a divorce, one’s spouse must still provide support for as long as the marriage lasts, and a spousal support order can thus be arranged from Family Court.


Simply pick up the phone and call Toll Free (800) 774-6922 or click the service you want to purchase. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to assist you. We can handle all of your process service needs; no job is too small or too large!

Contact us for more information about our process serving agency. We are ready to provide service of process to all of our clients globally from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington D.C

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives” – Foster, William A


1.DRL § 230
2.NY DRL §170.7)
3.Domestic Relations Law §170.1
4.NY DRL §170.2
5.Occurs when one spouse refuses to have sexual interactions for at least one year
6.NY DRL §170.3
7. NY DRL §170.4

Domestic Relation Law 232

Notice of nature of matrimonial action: Proof of Service 

a. In an action to annul a marriage or for divorce or for separation, if the complaint is not personally served with the summons, the summons shall have legibly written or printed upon the face thereof: “Action to annul a marriage”, “Action to declare the nullity of a void marriage”, “Action for a divorce”, or “Action for a separation”, as the case may be, and shall specify the nature of any ancillary relief demanded. A judgment shall not be rendered in favor of the plaintiff upon the defendant’s default in appearing or pleading, unless either (1) the summons and a copy of the complaint were personally delivered to the defendant; or (2) the copy of the summons (a) personally delivered to the defendant, or (b) served on the defendant pursuant to an order directing the method of service of the summons in accordance with the provisions of section three hundred eight or three hundred fifteen of the civil practice law and rules, shall contain such notice

b. An affidavit or certificate proving service shall state affirmatively in the body thereof that the required notice was written or printed on the face of the copy of the summons delivered to the defendant and what knowledge the affiant or officer who executed the certificate had that he was the defendant named and how he acquired such knowledge. The court may require the affiant or officer who executed the affidavit or certificate to appear in court and be examined in respect thereto.

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