Washington, DC Child Custody Lawyer
Founder and managing attorney, Nicole Johnson, has over a decade of experience helping families and caregivers throughout child custody disputes.
Under DC law, both parents share responsibilities for their children, except in circumstances where there is domestic violence or child abuse or neglect.
Who can file for custody of a child in DC?
Sometimes one parent will file for custody to ensure that there is a court-issued custody order outlining parental rights and visitation guidelines.
- The biological parents; and
- Individuals who met the requirements below:
- They have the agreement of the parent who has taken care of the child during the past 3 years;
- They have lived with the child and taken care of the child like a parent for at least 4 of the 6 months before the custody case was filed; or
- They are now living with and caring for the child and the child would be harmed if the third party does not have custody.
How does the court decide who gets custody?
DC uses an analysis referred to as the “child’s best interest,” as the most important consideration in all custody cases. To determine the child’s best interest, the court will examine several factors:
- The relationship of the child with his or her parents, siblings, and any other person who may affect the child’s best interest;
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
- The ages and number of children in the family;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The demands of petitioners’ employment;
- How the distance between the petitioners’ homes affects whether and when the child should spend time in each home;
- The prior involvement of each petitioner in the child’s life;
- The potential disruption of the child’s social and school life;
- Each petitioner’s ability to financially support a joint custody arrangement;
- The impact on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibilities;
- The benefit to the parents;
- Evidence of domestic violence;
- The wishes of the child about who should have custody, where practicable;
- The wishes of the child’s parent or parents about the child’s custody;
- The sincerity of each petitioner’s request;
- The petitioners’ willingness to share custody; and
- The petitioners’’ ability to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare.
Someone other than my child’s other parent has filed for custody. Will I lose my parental rights if that person wins?
Even if another person can file for custody, the biological parents still have an automatic right to parent the child, unless:
- The parent agrees to give the third party custody, or
- The third-party can show that the parent is unwilling or unable to take care of the child, and custody with the third party is in the child’s best interests.
Can an existing custody order ever be changed?
Any party can file a motion to modify an order for custody. A judge may change, modify, or end a custody arrangement if:
- There has been a substantial and material change in circumstances, and
- It is in the best interest of the child.
The party that wants the modification has to prove that the original order should be changed.
Child Custody Fees
Fees are usually determined by whether or not the case is contested. An uncontested case is generally less complex and requires significantly less time than a contested child custody case. Contested child custody cases are more complex because they require depositions, mediation, and several court hearings before trial.
Factors that influence the cost of trial:
- Length of trial (the actual hours spent in court) – Some trials can take several days depending on the number of issues and witnesses presented by the parties.
- Number and type of witnesses – An expert witness will incur additional fees.
- Difficulty of serving the other party – A party who cannot be located or will not sign certified mail delivered by the court may require additional fees.
- Whether a Guardian ad litem is required – When there are allegations of abuse or neglect, or a highly contentious case, the court may decide to appoint a Guardian ad litem. Each party will be required to pay the fees.
- The history of the parties – If there is a history of domestic violence, either party has a criminal record, or whether the parties have a prior custody agreement.
Trusted Legal Solutions was founded to make access to quality legal representation affordable. We don’t believe in charging you for a lengthy custody trial before you file the initial complaint. With our unbundled services, we will limit the scope of representation to what you need, when you need it. That, is the Trusted Difference.
If you want an effective attorney who will return your calls, give you upfront pricing, and prioritize your legal needs above her billable hours, schedule a consultation today. Experience the Trusted Difference.