Can Couples Married Overseas Get Divorced in the District of Columbia?

couple married in Paris, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower

Divorce can be overwhelming and emotionally draining, and when international elements come into play, it can add another layer of complexity. If you and your spouse were married overseas but now reside in the District of Columbia (D.C.), you might be wondering if you can get divorced in D.C. This article aims to shed light on the implications, rules, and processes involved in divorcing in D.C. after an overseas marriage. Additionally, we will discuss the cost factor and whether hiring a lawyer is necessary.

Can Couples Married Overseas Get Divorced in DC?

The good news is that D.C. allows couples married overseas to seek a divorce within its jurisdiction. The court recognizes and has jurisdiction over such cases, provided that certain requirements are met. These requirements typically include establishing residency in D.C., regardless of where the marriage took place.

Implications and Rules:

  1. Residency Requirements: To file for divorce in D.C., either you or your spouse must have been a resident of D.C. for at least six consecutive months before filing the divorce petition. Proof of residency, such as utility bills or a lease agreement, may be required.
  2. Jurisdiction: D.C. has jurisdiction over your divorce case if you or your spouse currently reside in D.C., even if you were married abroad. However, it’s essential to consult with an attorney to ensure your specific circumstances comply with D.C. laws.
  3. Property Division: D.C. follows the principle of equitable distribution, meaning that marital property will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. It’s crucial to understand how D.C. law defines marital property and factors considered during property division.
  4. Child Custody: If children are involved, the court’s primary focus is the best interests of the child. D.C. follows a standard known as “the best interest of the child” when making custody decisions. Factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent and their overall well-being are taken into account.
  5. Spousal Support and Child Support: D.C. has guidelines for calculating spousal and child support payments. Factors such as income, earning capacity, and the standard of living during the marriage may influence the court’s decision.

The Divorce Process and Cost

  1. Filing the Petition: To initiate the divorce process, you or your spouse must file a divorce petition in the Superior Court of D.C. The petitioner should complete the required forms, including the financial affidavit.
  2. Serving the Spouse: After filing the petition, the spouse must be served with a copy of the divorce papers. This can be done through a process server or via certified mail, depending on the circumstances.
  3. Negotiation and Mediation: Parties can attempt negotiation and mediation to reach a mutually agreeable settlement regarding property division, child custody, and support. This can help save time, money, and emotional stress.
  4. Court Proceedings: If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation, the case will proceed to court. The court will consider evidence, hear arguments, and make decisions on unresolved matters.
  5. Legal Costs: The cost of divorce in D.C. can vary significantly depending on factors such as complexity, attorney fees, court fees, and any additional services required, such as hiring expert witnesses or appraisers. It is advisable to consult with a family law attorney for an accurate estimate of costs.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

While it is not legally required to hire a lawyer for a divorce in D.C., it is highly recommended, especially when dealing with international aspects. A knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the process, ensure your rights are protected, and help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. They can also assist with negotiating a fair settlement, drafting legal documents, and representing you in court if necessary.


Divorcing in D.C. after an overseas marriage is possible, provided residency requirements are met. Understanding the implications, rules, and processes involved can help you navigate the divorce process more smoothly. Although hiring a lawyer is not mandatory, it is strongly advisable to seek legal counsel to protect your rights and ensure a fair outcome. Remember, each divorce case is unique, so consulting with an experienced family law attorney will provide you with personalized guidance tailored to your situation.

If you need a DC divorce lawyer to help you with your case, call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280 to schedule a consultation today. Or you can reach us at

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