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How Do I Get Sole Custody of My Child in Washington, D.C.?

June 12, 2024

Divorce and child custody cases can be complex, emotionally charged, and mentally straining. The situation can be even more taxing for parents seeking sole custody.

Because the courts generally favor allowing children to maintain a relationship with both parents, getting sole custody can be incredibly challenging. To get sole custody of your child in Washington, D.C., you will need to prove it is in the child’s best interests that the other parent not be involved in their life.

Legal vs. Physical Custody

You can file a custody order in Washington, D.C., if your child has lived in the District for at least six months or if the District was their home less than six months ago and their parent still lives there.

There are two different types of child custody. You will need to seek both in a case for full custody:

●             Legal – Legal custody gives you authority over decisions concerning the child and their welfare, including their health care and education. Sole custody makes you the only parent with the legal right to make these choices.

●             Physical – Physical custody dictates where the child lives. Physical custody can also include a joint custody schedule or visitation arrangements. If you get sole custody, the child will reside with you exclusively. You determine how much, or if, the child sees the other parent.

How Does the Court Decide Custody?

According to District of Columbia law, above all else, when deciding custody, the courts will consider the best interests of the child. The courts will also consider:

●             The wishes of the parents

●             The wishes of the child

●             The child’s relationship with their parents, siblings, and others who may emotionally or psychologically affect their best interests

●             The child’s attachment to their current home, school, or community and the disruption a custody arrangement may have on their life

●             The mental health of all involved parties

●             A parent’s willingness to share custody and their past involvement in the child’s life

●             Ability to financially support the child

Obtaining sole custody in Washington, D.C., can be difficult if the other parent does not support that arrangement. In most cases, you will need to show that contact with the other parent poses a threat to the child. This often means proving abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Steps for Seeking Sole Custody

There are several steps involved in a custody case. You must:

●             Prove parentage, if necessary

●             Determine if you can resolve custody through mediation or another method outside the courts

●             File custody paperwork in the Washington, D.C., courts

●             Serve the other parent with legal paperwork

●             Build a claim arguing for full custody

Speak with a Custody Lawyer Serving Washington, D.C.

Partners Jon Bourdon and Daniel Tortolero and the Bourdon & Tortolero, PLLC, team know how stressful divorce and custody cases can be. We aim to help families through trying times by providing personalized and compassionate legal services. We can help with all of your child custody concerns, including fighting for full custody. We serve Virginia and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Contact us online or call today for a consultation and connect with a family law lawyer near you.

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