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Legal Information: District of Columbia


Laws current as of April 5, 2024

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

Custody is determined according to what the judge considers to be in the child’s best interest. The judge will consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:

  • the child’s preference for who s/he wants to live with;
  • the wishes of the child’s parent(s);
  • the relationship the child has with his/her parents, siblings or any other persons involved;
  • the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school, and community life;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • any evidence of domestic or family violence;
  • the ability of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child;
  • 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;
  • how close the parents live from one another (for example, this would come into play if the judge were deciding whether having the kids go back and forth between the two homes would be reasonable);
  • the demands of parental 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 Families (TANF), or Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibilities, and medical assistance; and
  • the benefit to the parents.1

The court may also order each parent to submit a detailed parenting plan, outlining each parent’s position for a proposed custody/visitation schedule, and allocation (division) of parental rights and responsibilities that would be in the best interest of the child.2 The judge will consider these parenting plans when evaluating the factors listed above and when making the custody decision.3

1 D.C. Code § 16-914(a)(3)
2 D.C. Code § 16-914(a-3)(2)(c)
3 D.C. Code § 16-914 (a-3)(d)(1)