Washington DC Child Custody Lawyer

Even if you know it is for the best, divorcing or separating from your children’s other parent is stressful as you consider the impact on your kids. Coming up with a custody and visitation agreement with your former partner or spouse may seem impossible. In an especially contentious or high conflict separation or divorce, you may need a very detailed agreement that the court will enter as an order. A Washington DC child custody lawyer could help you draft a parenting plan, modify an existing order or arrangement, and think through all the what-ifs. Call an experienced family attorney today. En Español.

Child Custody Laws in the District of Columbia

The Code of the District of Columbia §16-914 states that there is a presumption of joint custody. The law also requires courts to make decisions in the best interest of the child and will, therefore, consider the parents’ ability to communicate and whether their relationship is characterized as contentious or high conflict.

The law also divides custody arrangements into a few categories: sole physical custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, joint legal custody, and other arrangements as the court sees fit. A Washington DC child custody attorney will be able to provide further information on the subtle differences between these classifications.

Physical custody

Washington DC law defines physical custody as who the children are with at any time or as the living arrangements of children. It includes the child’s residence as well as their visitation schedule at other domiciles. Physical custody may be awarded to only one parent, or an estranged couple may negotiate joint physical custody.

Legal custody

In Washington DC, legal custody means the right to make major decisions about a child’s:

  • Education
  • Medical and dental care
  • Psychological or emotional wellbeing or the need for counseling or play therapy
  • Access to records
  • Right to relocate to another jurisdiction with a parent

Joint Physical and Legal Custody

District of Columbia law includes a rebuttable presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child. While an award of “joint custody” in a court order can mean 50/50 shared physical and legal custody, it can also mean that one parent maintains both primary residential custody as well as final decision-making authority over legal custody issues.

Child abuse, child neglect, parental kidnapping, and domestic violence shift the presumption of joint custody away from the parent committing the offense. A custody lawyer in Washington DC will be able to provide more information on what joint physical and joint legal custody really mean or what they could mean in your situation.

Parenting Plans in Washington DC

In Washington DC, the court may order parents to submit a detailed parenting plan addressing various issues that the judge will ultimately decide in the child’s best interest. Some of the common elements of this blueprint include:

  • Residency
  • Financial support or child support
  • Visitation
  • Holidays, birthdays, and vacations
  • Education and religious training
  • Emergency decisions

The court may also require parents to address items not included on this list. A District of Columbia custody lawyer could help you draft an agreement that not only meets the court’s expectations but that you believe is in your child’s best interest.

Child Custody Orders for Parents Outside DC

Because local courts generally retain jurisdiction over all custody and child support matters they decide, a parent may not be able to both maintain custody and relocate easily. If one parent decides to leave the District, DC Code §16-914.01 deems that the current custody order will continue as long as the District remains the child’s “home state” or primary residence. Moreover, DC courts will remain in charge of the entry of any future orders modifying or terminating the original order.

Consult with a DC Child Custody Attorney Today

Like the Washington DC judge presiding over your case, you want to make custody decisions that are in the best interest of your children. Having an experienced lawyer who understands that you are best positioned to make these decisions for your children as opposed to a court is critical.

A lawyer can help you draft a developmentally appropriate access schedule to minimize difficult or stressful transitions for your children and to help you co-parent smoothly. Get in touch with a Washington DC child custody lawyer for help with moving forward to protect your family and to form a reasonable agreement.