How Uncontested vs Contested Divorce Varies in Washington D.C.

This article will provide guidance on How Uncontested vs Contested Divorce Varies in Washington D.C.. Divorces in the District of Columbia might vary greatly in terms of whether or not they’re contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce means that all difficulties stemming from the marriage have been resolved and that the spouses have no remaining points of contention. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

Divorce Process Service

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. Click here for information on How To Avoid Common Pitfalls Serving Divorce Papers: What Your Need To Know

Uncontested vs Contested Divorce

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’). Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case

The second kind of divorce, known as a ‘contested divorce,’ occurs when the parties are unable to agree on their divorce concerns and must take their case to court, where a judge will make the final judgments. If the spouses dispute any aspect of the divorce, the court will label it ‘contested.’ Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.

In many places, the law mandates that a divorce be finalized after a specified period. When divorcing couples participate in a contentious divorce, they may have to wait longer than in an uncontested divorce for the court to decide 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. Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked


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.

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 drafting a Settlement Agreement right away. Divorce lawyers may help to negotiate a settlement with the spouse’s lawyer if they do not 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 tends to be more costly. Neither users nor a family law or divorce lawyer can agree 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 money and time, it will 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 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. 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, they agree to separate).


Divorces that do not go to court are speedier to come to a close than divorces that go to court. One may submit a ‘Complaint about Absolute Divorce’ 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.

The same grievances might be raised in an uncontested and contentious divorce. In this form, the individual will notify the court whether they request 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 assets that may be included in an estate plan. Loans, credit card debt, and taxes are all examples of debt. Any property or debt, whether owned jointly or solely by one spouse, may be seized without regard to ownership or payment history in Washington, DC.

The term ‘separate property’ refers to assets one spouse brought into the marriage but 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. When the individual files for divorce, they will have to pay a fee for the filing to go through.  One may get a list of costs by calling the local court clerk. 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. 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.’

‘personal service’ refers to the need for the documents 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 residing 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 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 the link.


To get alimony, the spouses must submit financial papers detailing their 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 decide 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. The spouses may maintain a different lifestyle even though they live in the same home or apartment. The court will want proof that they shared ‘neither bed nor board’ and that the individuals had their own life apart from one another.


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). They will get that information as part of the divorce papers that must be served on the husband. After filing the case, the individual must follow precise legal formalities to serve their spouse with the documents.

In a divorce case, the other spouse is the defendant if the spouse initiates the proceedings. 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 partners 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, 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, 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. Divorce in the District of Columbia has only two options: alimony or spousal support.


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