No greater legal need exists in D.C. than for lawyers to represent those parents, third party caregivers, and immigrants attempting to stabilize and protect their families. And there is possibly no greater professional satisfaction than for a lawyer to make a difference in the life of a family in crisis.
DC's Children's Law Center and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center co-host this Practice Area with the generous assistance of DLA Piper.
The Family Law Practice Area provides pro bono, court-appointed and legal services lawyers with the tools necessary to be effective advocates in adoption, custody, divorce, support, and abuse and neglect matters. Volunteer opportunities are available through the co-host organizations, as well as many other legal service agencies in D.C. Most organizations provide training and support (including mentoring), and some provide malpractice insurance.
You can join the Family Law Practice Area if you provide pro bono representation through one of the co-host organizations or through one of the other legal service agencies in D.C. Legal service practitioners are also encouraged to join.
Family Court is paperless as of January 1, 2018.
Family Court Central Intake Center will scan in your document and return it to you, rather than keeping the original for a paper case file. As most attorneys are filing electronically, you will see no difference in procedures moving forward, this only affects paper filings over the counter. Please note that Adoption cases will still be using paper files and these changes do not apply to Adoption cases.
New D.C. Courts online case information resource
D.C. Superior Court has announced the launch of eAccess on August 11. eAccess will replace Court Cases Online as the court's online source for court records. The system will allow the public to view online the image for some non-confidential court documents. At this time, as with Court Cases Online, information will be available only for Civil Division, Criminal Division (including domestic violence misdemeanors) and Probate Division cases. For an instructional video, click here.
In re Ta.L. Directive
Directive 1-2017, "Procedures for hearings where the Court may remove reunification as a permanency goal and for appeals of such orders," sets forth procedures to be followed in neglect cases for changes of permanency goals from reunification to another goal, in light of the Court of Appeals decision in In re Ta.L. The directive is posted in the Neglect folder.
New Administrative Order for PAC program
Administrative Order 16-3, "Establishing the Program For Agreement and Cooperation" sets forth the protocol for the PAC program (parent education seminar and mediation in contested custody cases and divorce and legal separation cases when custody is a contested issue). The order supersedes Administrative Order 07-06, which originally established PAC as a pilot program. Administrative Order 16-3 is posted in the D.C. Superior Court and Family Court Practice folder and in the Custody folder.
New Court of Appeals cases
Note: if the links are broken, visit the Opinions page on the D.C. Court of Appeals website.
In re Sa.C. et al., S.C., Appellant (February 8, 2018) (order denying motions of GAL and government to dismiss the parent's appeal of a "retroactive" Ta.L. permanency goal decision. A permanency goal was changed prior to the Court of Appeals' decision in In re Ta.L. After that decision was handed down, the trial court held a "retroactive Ta.L" hearing regarding that permanency goal change. Citing the "firm rule of retroactivity," the Court of Appeals stated that because the neglect case was still being litigated in the trial court when In re Ta.L. was issued, the trial court properly sought to follow In re Ta.L. in making its decision to change the permanency goal from reunification to adoption.)
J.U. v. J.C.P.C., (Jan. 4, 2018) (Trial court's denial of Special Immigrant Juvenile finding reversed)
In re Petition of J.O. and P.O. (Dec. 12, 2017) (analysis of what constitutes parental "competence" such that the parent's choice of caregivers is entitled to weighty consideration)
Ieasha Hipps v. Ruben Cabrera (September 28, 2017) (interprets "forum non conveniens" provision of the UCCJEA)
A.C. v. N.W. (June 1, 2017) (analysis of pre-trial order vacating order temporarily suspending visitation; burden of proof, sufficiency of the evidence, admissibility of "Safe Shores" testimony)
Fleet v. Fleet (April 20, 2017) (equitable distribution of marital property)
In re Petition of T.G.M. & T.C.M. (March 9, 2017) (granting of foster parent's adoption petition upheld)
In re Ta.L. (December 8, 2016) (legal standard in adoptions; appealability of orders setting permanency goals in neglect cases)
Melbourne v. Taylor (November 16, 2016) (legal standard for name change of child over objection of one parent)
Ford v. Snowden (September 22, 2016) (assignment by TANF recipient-parent of child support to government does not preclude that parent from seeking child support over and above the TANF amount)
Duguma v. Ayalew (July 13, 2016) (trial court erred in not interviewing children as requested when there was no evidence other evidence relating to the children's wishes; although the decision as to whether to interview children in camera in custody disputes or determine their views in some other way rests with the sound discretion of the trial court, the case is remanded for the trial court to conduct a further inquiry into the children's custodial preferences.)
Littman v. Cacho (August 11, 2016) (reversal of trial court's termination of grandparent's court-ordered visitation rights)
In re M.V.H. (July 21, 2016) (affirmed trial court's granting adoption petition of foster parent and denying competing adoption petition to which parent consented)
Spellman v. Boland (July 7, 2016) (reversal of trial court's dismissal of petition seeking declaration of common-law marriage between petitioner and decedent for lack of personal jurisdiction)
D.C. Code § 13-340(a) has been amended to allow for constructive service by posting in custody cases in addition to service by publication. Previously, constructive service by posting was only permissible in divorce cases. In addition, D.C. Code § 13-336 was amended to allow the court to authorize constructive service on a defendant who cannot be found after diligent efforts or who by concealment seeks to avoid service of process. The amendments are part of the "Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016," D.C. Act 21-568.
D.C. Superior Court has issued Administrative Order 14-01 (January 29, 2014) adopting practice standards for guardians ad litem in custody cases. The standards can be accessed at http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/legal/dcscadminorders.jsf.
D.C. and Maryland have entered into a border agreement regarding the placement by D.C. in Maryland of children in neglect cases pursuant to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. The agreement can be found in the Abuse and Neglect - Statutes, rules and regulations -D.C. statutes - Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children folder.
The Military Parents' Child Custody and Visitation Rights Act of 2012 enacts D.C. § 16-914.02, addressing issues in connection with deploying parents.
The Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act of 2012 allows a same-sex spouse to obtain a divorce in D.C. without either spouse being a residence if neither spouse resides in a jurisdiction in which same-sex spouses can obtain a divorce.
D.C. Superior Court has issued Administrative Order 11-17 regarding possession and use of electronic devices in courtrooms. The order is posted on the court's website here.
New D.C. regulations about protecting foster children from identity theft are posted in the Abuse and Neglect - Statutes, rules, regulations folder.
D.C. Superior Court Administrative Orders 11-13 and 11-14, "Procedures for Adjudicating Applications to Amend Birth Certificates" and "Procedures for Adjudicating Applications for Change of Name" were issued on August 4, 2011. Cases involving minors or cases in which the applicant is involved in a pending Family Court case are to be filed in or assigned to Family Court. The full text of Admninistrative Order 11-13 is available here and Administrative Order 11-14 is available here.
D.C. Superior Court Administrative Order 11-15, "Procedures for Stand-in Attorneys Representing Parents in Family Treatment Court," was issued August 4, 2011. A copy of the Administrative Order is posted in the appropriate folders in the Family Law Library and is posted on the court's website here.