District of ColumbiaPost Divorce Property Division
District of Columbia Property Division Guide :: Table of Contents
What is property division in a District of Columbia divorce?
Also known as equitable distribution, property division is the process of dividing property rights and obligations between spouses during the process of a divorce. Property division may be agreed upon between the soupses through a property settlement, or it may be decided in court during the judicial process of divorce. The process of property division is affected by state laws such as community property laws, definitions of marital contributions, etc.
District of Columbia is an equitable distribution state, and only property acquired during the course of the marriage is subject to division following divorce. Some factors considered by District of Columbia courts in a property division case include non-monetary contributions, contributions to a partner's education and a list of other factors defined in District of Columbia law. This page summarizes the most important aspects of property division laws in District of Columbia.
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District of Columbia divides marital assets via equitable distribution, which means that the court attempts to divide marital assets in a fair and equitable manner between the spouses, taking multiple factors into account in order to determine the equitable distribution for each spouse.
Under DC law, marital property is that which is acquired or is a direct result of the labor and investments of the parties during the marriage is subject to equitable division. Equitable division does not mean marital property is divided equally, it is divided in manner that results in a fair or equitable result for each spouse.
Courts will consider the length of the marriage, age, health, occupation, amount, and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, assets, debts, and needs of each of the parties; whether a party will be the custodial parent of minor children, contribution to the marital estate including homemaking; opportunity for increasing income and assets in the future; any obligations from a prior marriage; each party's contribution to the education of the other party; any increase or decrease in income as a result of the marriage, the domestic partnership, or duties of homemaking and child care; any depreciation in marital assets caused by a party, tax consequences of the division and the circumstances which contributed to the parties' divorce.
Non-marital property or property acquired prior to the marriage or property acquired by one spouse during the marriage not included in the marital estate will be returned to the party who owned it prior to the marriage and is not subject to equitable division.
District of Columbia Property Division FAQ
- Is District of Columbia a community property state?
- Does state of District of Columbia only divide marital property after a divorce?
- Is there a set list of statutory factors for determining property division in the state of District of Columbia?
- Do courts in the District of Columbia consider nonmonetary contributions?
- Does District of Columbia consider a spouse's economic misconduct in property division?
- Are contributions to education considered in the state of District of Columbia?
- Can a pre-nuptual agreement affect property division in District of Columbia?
- How can I enforce a property division order in District of Columbia?
- Dower and Curtesy in District of Columbia?
Is District of Columbia a community property state?
District of Columbia is NOT a community property state, which means that marital property is not automatically divided 50/50 between the spouses in a divorce case.
Instead, District of Columbia judges determine property division under the equitable distribution policy, which means that the court divides property between the spouses in what is believed to be a fair distribution, based on each individual's contributions to the marriage and their earning ability and needs following separation. Factors such as one spouse's economic misconduct may also be considered.
In practice, judges in an equitable-distribution state like District of Columbia often divide marital property with approximately 2/3 of marital assets going to the higher-earning spouse, and 1/3 going to the lower-earning spouse.
Does District of Columbia only divide marital property after a divorce?
In the District of Columbia, only property or assets considered "marital property" or "community property" are subject to division in a divorce case. This means that property owned by either spouse prior to marriage is exempt, as are certain individually-owned assets acquired during the tenure of the marriage.
Some individual property may be considered to be "partial community property" or even ruled to be fully community property due to contributions by the other spouse or co-mingling of assets, which may lead to complicated property division situations.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for determining property division in the District of Columbia?
District of Columbia has a list of factors set by statute that specify what the court will use to determine a fair property division. Examples of factors that are often taken into consideration during property division cases include:
- Marital Fault - In states that allow at-fault divorces, the fault of one spouse may be used by the judge to justify a higher percentage to the injured spouse.
- Income and Earning Capacity - The court may consider the relative incomes and earning capacity of each spouse, which may be affected by factors such as age, education, and health. The spouse with lower economic prospects may receive a larger percentage of the estate.
- Educational Contributions - In District of Columbia, spouses who contributed significantly to their partner's education or earning capacity may receive a percentage of the marital property.
- Custody of Children - If one spouse has full custody of the couple's children following the breakup, this may result in higher likelihood of receiving a higher percentage of the estate, or certain pieces of marital property (like the family house).
Do courts in the District of Columbia consider nonmonetary contributions?
In District of Columbia, statutory law requires judges deciding a property division case to account for the nonmonetary contributions of both spouses to a marriage when determining how to divide property between them. In practice, this generally means that the judge will consider the value of the labor a stay-at-home spouse contributed to the marriage. Nonmonetary contributions may include activities like the following:
- Household chores, cooking, homemaking
- Taking care of children
- Supporting their spouse professionally
Does District of Columbia consider a spouse's economic misconduct in property division?
In District of Columbia, there are no laws requiring courts to consider economic misconduct (aka wasting marital assets) by either spouse when determing property division. In many other states, economic misconduct can result in a higher percentage of marital property awarded to the injured spouse.
Are a spouse's contributions to their partner's education considered in the District of Columbia?
District of Columbia statute does provide for court consideration of a spouse's contribution to their partner's education during the course of a marriage. If one spouse supported (financially or otherwise) the other and enabled them to obtain education or other training that increased their earning power, these contributions can be considered by a District of Columbia judge when determining how to divide marital property.
Can a pre-nuptual agreement affect property division in District of Columbia?
A prenuptual agreement, or pre-nup, is a binding legal contract signed by both spouses prior to getting married in District of Columbia. A prenup containing a property division agreement can take precedence over District of Columbia's property division laws by establishing what is considered as separate vs marital property, as well as agreeing on how finances will be structured during the marriage and divided in the event of a divorce.
The existance of a valid prenuptual agreement can prevent a District of Columbia court from having full reign to determine how assets are divided between the spouses, and instead allow them to be divided in a way agreed to by both spouses prior to the event.
How can I enforce a property division order in District of Columbia?
A District of Columbia property division order is a court order issued by a court order issued by a judge, describing how property is to be divided between spouses following a divorce. A property division order is a binding legal obligation, and failure to comply with the terms in full by either spouse can result in being charged with contempt of court. If your spouse is not complying with a property division order, you can consult a family lawyer to discuss potential legal avenues.
Dower and Curtesy?
Dower and curtesy abolished (§19-102)