DC Child Custody Lawyer

How can I get custody of my child after divorce?

    If you have children with your spouse, then your biggest concern surrounding your divorce is probably related to child custody. When a divorce complaint is filed in Washington, D.C., one or both parties can ask the court to award them custody of their minor children. Alternatively, a child custody petition can be filed apart from a divorce proceeding at any time up until the child turns 21 years old. 

Is Washington, D.C. the right jurisdiction for my child custody case?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), D.C. Code 16-4601 et. seq., governs jurisdiction in child custody cases.  The purpose behind the statute is to ensure that only on state at a time has jurisdiction over child custody matters. Under the UCCJEA, an initial custody determination should be made in by the child's "home state."  The home state is the state in which the child lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child-custody proceeding.  So, if a child has lived in D.C. with his or her parent for the last six months, the District is the proper jurisdiction for an initial child custody determination.  In addition, the District will remain the home state of the child if D.C. was the home state of the child, but the child was removed from D.C. within the last six months, as long as at least one parent still lives in the District. Thus, if one parent leaves D.C. with the child and the other parent continues to reside in D.C., the parent who is left behind will have six months to file a custody petition in the District before the child's new state-of-residence will become his or her "home state" for purposes of the UCCJEA.  After six months, the news state becomes the child's "home state" and a custody petition must be brought there. 

What is the difference between "legal custody v. physical custody?"
  The law recognizes two types of custody:  "legal custody"
refers to the legal responsibility for a child and includes the right to make decisions regarding the child's health, education, and general welfare; and "physical custody" refers to the child's living arrangements.  The court may order Sole or joint legal custody, and sole or joint physical custody. 

What is the "best interests" standard?

     When a court determines the custody of a child, it must decide what is in the "best interests" of the child. There are several factors that the court must consider, depending on the circumstances. There is no guaranteed outcome when it comes to child custody and parties seeking custody must be prepared to paint a compelling picture of why the child is better off in their household.  D.C. Section 16-914(a)(3) sets forth 17 factors that the court must consider:

  • the wishes of the child as to his or her custodian, where practicable
  • the wishes of the child's parent or parents as to the child's custody
  • ​the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may emotionally or psychologically affect the child's best interest
  • the child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • ​evidence of an interfamily offense (domestic violence)
  • the capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child's welfare
  • the willingness of the parents to share custody
  • the prior involvement of each parent in the child's life
  • the potential disruption of the child's social and school life
  • ​the geographical proximity of the parental homes as their relates to the practice considerations of the child's or children's residential schedule
  • ​demands of parents employment 
  • the age and number of children
  • the sincerity of each parent's request
  • the parent's ability to financially support a joint custody arrangement
  • the impact on Temporary Assistance for Needy Facilities, or Program on Work, Employment and Responsibilities, and medical assistance, and
  • the benefit to the parents. 

​There is a presumption in the law that joint custody is in the best interests of the child, except where a court has found that there has been an interfamily offense, child abuse, child neglect, or parental kidnapping, in which case there is a rebuttable presumption against joint custody.

Can my child custody order be modified?

Even after the court makes its final decision regarding custody, modifications can be made to the custody arrangements in the future, based on changed circumstances. Because this matter is so important and because it never really goes away, it is crucial to understand the process and to have skilled legal guidance to assist you in obtaining the best possible outcome for you and your child.

Shinskie Law Group, PLLC Child Custody Attorney

    If you need a child custody attorney in Washington DC, contact the Shinskie Law Group for (202) 627-6918 or email at kshinskie@shinskielawgroup.com.  We will take the time to thoroughly understand your goals and your unique situation and we will aggressively protect your family and your vital interests.

​child custody lawyer in Washington dc