DC law removes waiting period before divorce

A new law eliminates the waiting period before divorce in D.C. in an effort to help domestic violence survivors more quickly leave abusive spouses.

Previously, a couple in the District could get divorced after living separately for six months, as long as both parties voluntarily agreed to it. If one spouse contested the divorce, the two would be required to remain legally married for a year.

“District law should not hold people back from leaving abusive relationships,” said Ward One Council Member Brianne Nadeau on X.

Nadeau introduced the bill: “Grounds for Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment Amendment Act of 2023.”

The Council unanimously approved the bill in November 2023, and it went into effect on Jan. 26 of this year.

The bill also requires a family court judge to factor in “the history of physical, emotional or financial abuse by one part against the other,” in considering alimony and property distribution.

In addition, it allows the judge to “award exclusive use of the family home or any other other dwelling unit” to one spouse, during divorce litigation.

Nadeau worked with Legal Aid DC, a civil services organization, in crafting the bill.

“Thank you @LegalAidDC for your advocacy,” she wrote in her social media post.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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