2024 brings a significant change to grounds for divorce and legal separation in the District of Columbia. Previously, D.C. law required that parties be either mutually and voluntarily separated for at least six (6) months, or separated for one (1) year (regardless of whether the separation was mutual and voluntary), prior to filing for divorce.

Effective January 26, 2024, under the new law known as the "Grounds for Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment Amendment Act of 2023", parties are no longer required to live separate and apart for any amount of time in order to file for divorce, legal separation or annulment. The Court may grant a divorce upon the assertion by one or both of the parties that they no longer wish to remain married. Additionally, the Court may grant a legal separation upon the assertion by one or both of the parties that they intend to pursue a separate life without obtaining a divorce.

The same law also brings additional changes to D.C. domestic relations law. Specifically, the Court is now required to consider the "history of physical, emotional or financial abuse by one party against the other" when making an award of alimony and/or a determination as to allocation of marital property. This is a step beyond the Court's previous and more limited consideration of making a legal finding of "intrafamily offense."

Lastly, under the new law, the Court can now order exclusive use and possession of a marital home during the pendency of litigation to one party, regardless of whether that party holds an ownership interest in the marital home.

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