Legal Information: District of Columbia


October 30, 2023

What is joint custody?

Joint custody is the term used to describe a situation where parents have both joint physical custody and joint legal custody.  In an action for custody, an award of joint custody is favored in D.C.  However, if a judge determines that domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, or parental kidnapping has occurred, joint custody is no longer preferred.  Instead, the judge should presume that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child (but the abusive parent can try to present evidence to change the judge’s mind).1  If the judge does grant the abusive parent custody (or visitation), the judge must explain his/her reason for doing so in a written statement. 

In addition, the law says that the judge should only award visitation to an abusive parent if the judge finds that the child and the non-abusive parent can adequately be protected from the abusive parent.2  See Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation? to read more.   

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

WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.