Child Custody & Visitation
The contentious nature of child custody, visitation, and adoptions makes these issues some of the most complex and emotionally charged areas of family law. At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, in Washington, DC, we handle child custody cases, including visitation, parenting schedules, and adoptions.
Our team has over 60 years of combined legal experience and an extensive network of resources, both of which we utilize to provide competent legal services for our clients.
Every state has different laws regarding families and children. However, most family courts agree that the child’s best interests are a primary factor, and DC is no exception. In this post, we’ll discuss an overview of child custody, adoption, and visitation laws in Washington, DC, and how our firm can help guide you through all the obstacles your case may encounter.
Adoption Laws in Washington, DC
In DC, the law allows any individual to adopt another individual. Our legal team can help you prepare and file your adoption petition in your district’s superior court, which is how you begin the adoption process.
Adopting is a lifelong dream for many people, but there’s no denying it can be an emotional rollercoaster. Fortunately, you can get help from a qualified adoption attorney in Washington, DC, here at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC. We’ll help you navigate the process, provide sound legal advice, and fight relentlessly on your behalf to help you secure a brighter future.
What Are the Requirements for Adopting in DC?
Adoptive parents in DC are subject to specific requirements before filing. Let’s take a look at those caveats and some examples:
1. Married couples must file a joint adoption petition unless one spouse is the natural birth parent of the adoptee.
Example: A single mother remarries, and her new spouse wants to adopt her son. Only the stepparent would have to file the petition. Another example would be birth parents who decide to place their baby up for adoption. In this scenario, both the adoptive parents would file a joint petition.
2. Before the courts grant the adoption, the prospective adoptee must live alongside the adopting person or persons for at least six months.
Example: A stepparent who wants to adopt their new stepchild must live in the same residence for at least six months.
3. Prospective adoptees over the age of 14 must consent freely to the adoption process. Consent is also necessary from the child’s legal guardian, parents, or an officially licensed adoption agency, like the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency.
In addition, there is a statute of limitations in Washington, DC, for adoption cases, which is one year.
Example: Birth parents decide to place their baby up for an open adoption, but after a few months, they change their minds. They can challenge the adoption as long as a full year hasn’t passed.
Our firm also provides legal assistance with international adoptions, which can be tricky. The adoption process requires a lot of paperwork, bureaucratic red tape, and quite a few legal hoops. The steps may be time-consuming, but it’s worth it to achieve your dreams of adopting. Also, our legal team will remain by your side every step of the way to make the process as stress-free as possible.
Child Custody Laws in Washington, DC
Child custody cases are another complicated part of family law that our practice handles in Washington, DC. The laws can be challenging to interpret, particularly if you don’t have help from a child custody attorney. One minor error could have lasting repercussions for you and your children’s future, which is why you should always have a dedicated child custody lawyer there to ensure you don’t miss any details or steps.
In Washington, DC, the law recognizes two types of custody and a further subset of both, known as joint custody:
Physical Custody: This type of custody refers to where the children will primarily reside. Both parents can share physical custody, or one can have sole physical custody.
Example: A parent with sole physical custody could move away to another state. The noncustodial parent would need to go to court and prove that the move would be harmful to the children.
Legal Custody: If you have legal custody of a child, you are responsible for making their decisions regarding education, healthcare, religion, and legal issues. Most judges prefer that parents have joint legal custody.
Example: With joint legal custody, you and your ex-spouse/partner will share in the decision-making for your minor children, like which doctor will be their primary care physician.
Joint Custody: In joint custody cases, the courts name one parent custodial and the other noncustodial. The person who spends the most time with the children will generally be the custodial parent and therefore have more rights.
Example: You and your ex cannot agree on where your minor children should attend school. Your ex is the custodial parent, so they have the final say in this situation if no agreement is forthcoming.
What happens if you cannot agree with your child’s parent regarding child custody? In that case, a judge will have to formulate a child custody plan that takes into account the child’s best interest.
Visitation in Washington, DC
In Washington, DC, the noncustodial parent usually has visitation rights, except in extreme cases where the custodial parent can prove they are unfit to parent.
Example: The other parent is serving a lengthy jail sentence, has a history of domestic abuse, or suffers from an extreme mental illness.
If your child custody schedule names you the noncustodial parent, the law in DC will generally allow you extended visitation during school breaks and the summer. You must follow the terms of your custody schedule precisely. If you don’t, you could face serious legal consequences, like contempt of court.
How Do You Get Full Custody in Washington, DC?
While there’s no guarantee that your ex or the courts will grant you full physical custody, our firm will help you try every possible legal avenue to make it happen. You can call our office to schedule a consultation or contact us through our online form to get in touch with a child custody attorney on our team.
To gain full physical custody, you’ll need to show that you’re better equipped as a parent to meet your child’s best interests, including safety, stability, emotional wellness, shelter, education, etc. If you can show that, you have a good chance of becoming the custodial parent barring any unexpected circumstances in your case.
Can You Modify Custody or Visitation Agreements in DC?
Yes, you can modify custody agreements in Washington, DC, if there’s been a significant change in either parent’s circumstances. Usually, changes like a new job or remarriage aren’t enough for the court to grant a modification.
Example: Your ex remarries, and their new spouse has a history of child abuse or domestic violence. In that scenario, you would have a compelling argument to change your visitation and custody schedule.
Trust DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, to Protect Your Family’s Best Interests
If you need legal services from a family law attorney, the team at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, is your trusted source for qualified representation in Washington, DC. We handle all kinds of family law cases, including divorce, child custody, adoption, and visitation.