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Washington, DC Domestic Relations Rules (Selected)

  •  Rule 3. Commencement of action.

    The following Domestic Relations actions under D.C. Code 11-1101 are commenced by filing a complaint or counterclaim with the Court

    1. Actions for divorce from the bond of marriage and legal separation from bed and board, including proceedings incidental thereto for alimony, pendente lite and permanent, and for support and custody of minor children;
    2. Applications for revocation of divorce from bed and board;
    3. Actions seeking custody of minor children, including petitions for writs of habeas corpus;
    4. Actions to declare marriages void;
    5. Actions to declare marriages valid;
    6. Actions for annulments of marriage;
    7. Determinations and adjudications of property rights, both real and personal, in any action referred to in this Rule;
    8. Proceedings for reciprocal support under D.C. Code 30-301 through 30-324 [ 46-701 through 46-724, 2001 Ed.].

    Proceedings to determine paternity of any child born out of wedlock are commenced by filing a petition with the Court.

    A Domestic Relations action pursuant to D.C. Code 11-1101(3) to enforce support of any person may be initiated by either complaint or petition. Proceedings to modify support or custody pursuant to D.C. Code 16-911 may be brought by motion in the underlying case, if any, or by complaint.

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  •  Rule 4. Process.

    1. Issuance

      1. Summons.

        In cases in which a Domestic Relations action is initiated by complaint, a completed summons with copies for each defendant named in the complaint shall be delivered to the Clerk at the time the complaint is filed, except actions for reciprocal support under D.C. Code 11-1101(10). If reissued, separate, or additional process is required, a completed summons for such process shall also be delivered to the Clerk. The Clerk shall record the date of filing and return all summonses to the plaintiff or the plaintiff's agent for service of process by special process server, mail, by the Marshal or in any manner set forth in paragraph (c) of this Rule. In cases where a post-judgment motion is filed (1) after the appearance of counsel of the party to be served has been terminated pursuant to SCR-Dom Rel 101(e)(4), or (2) 60 or more days after judgment and the party to be served was not represented by counsel at the time of the entry of judgment, the motion shall be accompanied by a summons and served pursuant to paragraph (c) of this Rule.

      2. Notice of hearing and order directing appearance.

        In cases in which a Domestic Relations action is initiated by petition, a Notice of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance, with copies for each named defendant or individual whose attendance is otherwise required, shall be filed with the Clerk. A Notice of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance shall bear the name and seal of the Court and the title of the action. It shall command the person to whom it is directed to appear on a date and at a time specified therein. The Clerk shall set the matter for hearing and deliver all such notices for service to the petitioner or the petitioner's agent. Service shall be made by special process server as provided for in subparagraph (c)(1) of this Rule, by the Marshal, or in any other manner authorized by an applicable statute, rule or order of the Court.

      3. Orders to show cause.

        In proceedings in which an order to show cause is required or allowed by the Court or by statute, a completed order, with sufficient copies for each defendant or other individual to be served, shall be filed with the Clerk and delivered for service by the moving party or the moving party's agent. Service shall be made by special process server as provided for in subparagraph (c)(1) of this Rule, by the Marshal, or in any other manner authorized by applicable statute, rule or order of the Court.

    2. Summons: Form.

      The summons shall be signed by the Clerk, be under the seal of the Court, contain the name of the Court and the names of the parties, be directed to the defendant, state the name and address of the plaintiff's attorney, if any (otherwise the plaintiff's address), and the time within which these Rules require the defendant to respond, and shall notify the defendant that in case of the defendant's failure to do so action can be taken against the defendant for the relief demanded in the complaint. When, under SCR-Dom Rel 4(e), service is made pursuant to a statute or Rule of Court of the District of Columbia, the summons or notice, or order in lieu of summons shall correspond to the requirements of the statute or Rule.

    3. Summons: How served.

      Service of process shall be made in one of the following ways which may, at the plaintiff's election, be attempted either concurrently or successively:

      1. By any competent person 18 years of age or older who is not a party to the suit. Proof of service shall be made under oath and specifically state each of the following: The caption and number of the case; the special process server's name, residential and business addresses, and the fact that the process server is at least 18 years of age; the date, time and place at which service was effected and on whom it was effected; and if service was effected by delivery to a person other than the party named in the summons, then specific facts from which the Court can determine that the person to whom process was delivered meets the appropriate qualifications for receipt of process set out in paragraph (d) of this Rule.
      2. By mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant by registered or certified mail and filing with the Clerk the signed return receipt attached to an affidavit which shall specifically state each of the following: The caption and number of the case; the date when the summons and complaint were mailed and by whom; and, if the return receipt does not purport to be signed by the party named in the summons, then specific facts from which the Court can determine that the person who signed the receipt meets the appropriate qualifications for receipt of process set out in paragraph (d) of this Rule. Service shall be deemed made as of the date the return receipt was signed, or if that date is not indicated, the date stamped by the U.S. Postal Service upon delivery.
      3. By the Metropolitan Police Department pursuant to D.C. Code 13-302.1 [ 13-302.01, 2001 Ed.].
      4. By the Marshal.
      5. By publication pursuant to D.C. Code 13-336 or by posting pursuant to D.C. Code 13-340(a).
      6. In any manner authorized by paragraph (e) of this Rule.
      7. By written acknowledgment or waiver of service signed by the person to be served, under oath before a notary.
      8. In any other manner authorized by applicable statute.
    4. Personal service: Notice of hearing and order directing appearance, order to show cause and summons.

      In cases within SCR-Dom Rel 4(a)(2) and (3) above, involving service of a Notice of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance or an Order to Show Cause, service shall be made upon the defendant, respondent or other named person by delivering to that individual personally a copy of the petition along with the Notice of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance or the Order to Show Cause, unless otherwise ordered by the Court upon a showing of good cause.

      In cases within subparagraph 4(a)(1) of this Rule, the summons and complaint shall be served in one of the following ways:

      1. Upon an individual other than a minor or an incompetent person, by delivering the service copies of the summons and complaint to the individual personally or by leaving them at the individual's dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then living there or by delivering the service copy of the summons and complaint to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.
      2. Upon a minor or an incompetent person, by serving the service copy of the summons and complaint in the manner prescribed by the law of the District of Columbia or of the state in which the service is made.
      3. Upon a domestic or foreign corporation or upon a partnership or other unincorporated association which is subject to suit under a common name, by delivering the service copy of the summons and complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or to any other agent authorized by appointment or by and in accordance with law to receive service of process.
      4. Upon a defendant of any class referred to in subparagraph (d)(1) or (3) of this Rule, by any other means prescribed by the law of the District of Columbia.
    5. Service outside the District of Columbia.

      Whenever an applicable statute or Rule of Court provides for service of process upon or notice to a party outside of the District of Columbia, service and proof of service may be made under the circumstances and in the manner prescribed in the statute or Rule.

    6. Service by publication.

      When service by publication is authorized by the Court, publication shall be in at least one legal newspaper or periodical of daily circulation for the prescribed time in addition to any other newspaper or periodical specifically designated by the Court. Publication shall be proved by affidavit of an officer or agent of the publisher stating the dates of publication with an attached copy of the document as published. For purposes of this Rule, a legal newspaper or periodical of daily circulation shall mean a publication designated by the Court that is (1) devoted primarily to publication of opinions, notices and other information from the courts of the District of Columbia, (2) circulated generally to the legal community, and (3) published at least on each weekday that the Superior Court is in session.

    7. Service by posting.

      Upon a showing that publication pursuant to paragraph (f) would impose a substantial hardship, the Court may order publication by posting or in any other manner prescribed by D.C. Code 13-340(a).

    8. Territorial limits of effective service.

      1. All process may be served anywhere within the territorial limits of the District of Columbia, and, only when authorized by a statute or by these Rules, beyond the territorial limits of the District.
      2. Persons who are brought in as parties pursuant to SCR-Dom Rel 19 may be served in the manner stated in subparagraphs (d)(1)-(3) of this Rule at all places outside the District that are not more than 100 miles from the Superior Court; and persons required to respond to an order of commitment for civil contempt may be served at the same places.
    9. Alternative provisions for service in a foreign country.

      When the applicable law referred to in paragraph (e) of this Rule authorizes service upon a party in a foreign country, it is also sufficient if service is made:

      1. By any applicable, internationally agreed means reasonably calculated to give notice, such as those means authorized by the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents; or
      2. If there is no applicable, internationally agreed means of service or the applicable international agreement allows other means of service, provided that service is reasonably calculated to give notice:
        1. in the manner prescribed by the law of the foreign country for service in that country in an action in any of its courts of general jurisdiction; or
        2. as directed by the foreign authority in response to a letter rogatory or letter of request; or
        3. unless prohibited by the law of the foreign country:
          1. upon an individual, by delivery to the individual personally, and upon a corporation or partnership or association, by delivery to an officer, a managing or general agent; or
          2. by any form of mail requiring a signed receipt, to be addressed and mailed to the party to be served; or
          3. as directed by order of the Court.

          Service under (C)(i) and (C)(iii) above may be made by any person who is not a party and is not less than 18 years of age or who is designated by order of this Court or by the foreign court. On request, the Clerk shall deliver the summons to the plaintiff for transmission to the person or the foreign court or officer who will make service.

    10. Proof of service.

      Except where service has been waived, proof of service shall be made in one of the following ways:

      1. If service is made within the United States, proof shall be made to the Court in accordance with the time limits in paragraph (1) of this Rule.
      2. If service is made in a foreign country, proof may be made in accordance with the time limits of paragraph (l) of this Rule, or by the law of the foreign country, or by order of the Court. If such service is made by any form of mail requiring a signed receipt, proof of service shall include a receipt signed by the addressee or other evidence of personal delivery to the addressee satisfactory to the Court, and, if the return receipt does not purport to be signed by the party named in the summons or notice, then specific facts from which the Court can determine that the person who signed the receipt meets the appropriate qualifications for receipt of process set out in paragraph (d) of this Rule.

      Failure to make proof of service does not affect the validity of the service.

    11. Amendment.

      At any time in its discretion and upon such terms as it deems just, the Court may allow any process or proof of service to be amended, unless it clearly appears that material prejudice would result to the substantial rights of the party against whom the process was issued.

    12. Time limit for service.

      Within 60 days of the filing of the complaint, the plaintiff must file proof of service of the summons, the complaint and any order directed by the Court to the parties at the time of filing. The proof shall be filed as to each defendant who has not responded to the complaint. Prior to the expiration of the foregoing time period, a request may be made by praecipe to extend the time for service. The praecipe shall include a certificate of good faith efforts to complete service by the attorney. Upon presentation of the request and certification the Clerk shall re-issue a summons for one additional 60 day period. If time in excess of the 120 days is required the party may file a motion for additional time. Failure to comply with the requirements of this Rule shall result in the dismissal without prejudice of the complaint. The Clerk shall enter the dismissal and shall serve notice of it on all the parties entitled to such notice.

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  •  Rule 26. General provisions governing discovery; disclosure of information.

    1. Disclosure of information; Methods to discover additional matter.

      1. Pretrial disclosures.

        At the status conference, the judicial officer shall determine whether to order the parties to exchange information and documents, and, if so, set the dates and sequence. If so ordered, each party shall provide to the other parties the following information regarding the evidence that the party may present at trial other than solely for impeachment purposes:

        1. The name, address and telephone number of each witness, separately identifying those whom the party expects to present and those whom the party may call if the need arises.
        2. A copy of each exhibit, with a list of all exhibits which separately identifies those which the party expects to offer and those which the party may offer if the need arises.
        3. The identity of any expert witness, and copies of any exhibits to be used in connection with the expert's testimony.
        4. Financial information in accordance with a form(s) provided by the Court.

        An order for pretrial disclosures shall not preclude a subsequent motion for a protective order, where appropriate.

      2. Discovery methods.

        In addition to any disclosures made pursuant to subparagraph (a)(1), parties may obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: Depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; requests for production or for permission to enter property for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission.

    2. Discovery scope and limits.

      Unless limited by order of the judicial officer in accordance with these Rules, the scope of discovery is as follows:

      1. In general.

        Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to an issue involved in the pending action, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

      2. Limitations.

        The frequency or extent of use of the discovery methods otherwise permitted under these rules shall be limited by the judicial officer if the judicial officer determines that: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issue. The judicial officer may act upon his or her own initiative or pursuant to a motion under paragraph (c).

      3. Discovery of trial preparation materials.

        A party may obtain discovery of documents and tangible things that are relevant, and not privileged, and were prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials and that the party is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means. In ordering discovery of such materials when the required showing has been made, the judicial officer shall protect against disclosure of the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney or other representative of a party concerning the litigation.

        A party may obtain without the required showing a statement concerning the action or its subject matter previously made by that party. Upon request, a person not a party may obtain without the required showing a statement concerning the action or its subject matter previously made by that person. If the request is refused, the person may move for a court order. The provisions of SCR-Dom Rel 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion. For purposes of this paragraph, a statement previously made is (A) a written statement signed or otherwise adopted or approved by the person making it, or (B) a stenographic, mechanical, electrical, or other recording, or a transcription thereof, which is a substantially verbatim recital of an oral statement by the person making it and contemporaneously recorded.

      4. Discovery of trial preparation of experts.

        Discovery of facts known and opinions held by an expert, otherwise relevant and not privileged, and acquired or developed in anticipation of litigation or for trial, may be obtained only as follows:

        1. A party may through interrogatories require any other party to identify each person whom the other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial, to state the subject matter on which the expert is expected to testify, and to state the substance of the facts and opinions to which the expert is expected to testify and a summary of the grounds for each opinion. (ii) A party may by deposition require a person whom any other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial to state the substance of the facts and opinions to which the expert is expected to testify and the grounds for each opinion. (iii) Upon motion, the judicial officer may order discovery by other means, subject to such restrictions as to scope and such provisions, pursuant to subparagraph (b)(4)(C) of this Rule, concerning fees and expenses as the judicial officer may deem appropriate.

        2. A party may discover facts known or opinions held by an expert who has been retained or specially employed by another party in anticipation of litigation or preparation for trial and who is not expected to be called as a witness at trial, only as provided in SCR-Dom Rel 35(b) or upon a showing of exceptional circumstances under which it is impracticable for the party seeking discovery to obtain facts or opinions on the same subject by other means.

        3. Unless manifest injustice would result, upon motion the judicial officer shall require that the party seeking discovery:

          1. pay the expert a reasonable fee for time spent in responding to discovery under this rule;
          2. pay the other party a fair portion of the fees and expenses reasonably incurred by the latter party in obtaining facts and opinions from an expert who has been retained or specially employed by the other party in anticipation of litigation or preparation for trial and who is not expected to be called as a witness at trial. The judicial officer may also order the party seeking discovery to pay the other party a fair portion of the fees and expenses reasonably incurred by the latter party in obtaining facts and opinions from an expert who is expected to be called as a witness at trial.
      5. Claims of privilege or protection of trial preparation materials.

        When a party withholds information otherwise discoverable under these Rules by claiming that it is privileged or subject to protection as trial preparation material, the party shall make the claim expressly and shall describe the nature of the documents, communications or things not produced or disclosed in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection.

    3. Protective orders.

      Upon motion by a party or by the person from whom discovery is sought, accompanied by a certification that the movant has made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute without court action, and for good cause shown, the judicial officer may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. In matters relating to a deposition, the court in the district where the deposition is to be taken may make such an order. The protective order may include one or more of the following: (1) that the disclosure or discovery not be had; (2) that the disclosure or discovery may be had only on specified terms and conditions, including a designation of the time or place; (3) that the discovery may be had only by a method of discovery other than that selected by the party seeking discovery; (4) that certain matters not be inquired into, or that the scope of the disclosure or discovery be limited to certain matters; (5) that discovery be conducted with no one present except persons designated by the Court; (6) that a deposition after being sealed be opened only by order of the Court; (7) that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a designated way; (8) that the parties simultaneously file specified documents or information enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as directed by the Court.

      Upon the filing of the motion for a protective order, further action with respect to the matter in dispute shall be stayed until the Court's determination of the motion. The provisions of SCR-Dom Rel 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion.

    4. Sequence and timing of discovery.

      Methods of discovery may be used in any sequence unless otherwise ordered by the judicial officer, and the fact that a party is conducting discovery shall not operate to delay any other party's discovery. Time limitations for completion of discovery will be set by order of the judicial officer.

    5. Motion to enlarge time for discovery.

      A motion for an enlargement of time for discovery shall require a showing of good cause and shall specify the discovery to be sought and the time within which the discovery is expected to be completed.

    6. Supplementation of disclosures and responses.

      A party who has made a disclosure or responded to a request for discovery is under a duty to supplement or correct the disclosure or response to include information thereafter acquired if ordered by the judicial officer or in the following circumstances:

      1. Where there was a question directly addressed to (A) the identity and location of persons having knowledge of specific discoverable matter, and (B) the identity of each person expected to be called as an expert witness at trial, the subject matter on which the person is expected to testify, and the substance of the person's testimony.

      2. Where the party obtains information upon the basis of which (A) the party knows that the disclosure or response was incorrect when made, or (B) the party knows that the disclosure or response though correct when made is no longer true and the circumstances are such that a failure to amend it is in substance a knowing concealment.

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  •  Rule 52. Findings by the Court.

    1. Effect.

      In all actions tried upon the facts the Court shall make written findings of fact, separate conclusions of law and judgment which shall be entered pursuant to SCR-Dom Rel 58; and in granting or refusing interlocutory injunctions the Court shall similarly set forth the findings of fact and conclusions of law which constitute the grounds of its action. The findings of a master, to the extent that the Court adopts them, shall be considered as the findings of the Court. If an opinion or memorandum of decision is filed, it will be sufficient if the findings of fact and conclusions of law appear therein. If an opinion or memorandum of decision resolves all of the issues on the merits, the judgment may be set forth separately or within the opinion or memorandum of decision. Findings of fact and conclusions of law are unnecessary on decisions of motions under SCR-Dom Rel 12 or 56 or any other motion except motions to modify an order of the Court and except as provided in SCR-Dom Rel 50.

    2. Amendment.

      On a party's motion filed not later than 10 days after entry of judgment, the Court may amend its findings or make additional findings and may amend the judgment accordingly. The motion to amend may accompany a motion for a new trial under SCR-Dom Rel 59.

    3. Matters taken under advisement.

      If a decision has not been rendered within 60 days of the date on which a motion was taken under advisement or a nonjury trial concluded, the Clerk shall send notice of that fact to the assigned judicial officer and shall repeat such notice every 30 days thereafter until a decision is rendered. If no decision has been rendered within 60 days of the issuance of the first such notice, the Clerk thereafter shall so advise that judicial officer, the parties, and the Chief Judge, and the assigned judicial officer shall provide to the Chief Judge and the parties within 30 days a written explanation for why the decision has not been rendered. The Chief Judge may take any action the Chief Judge deems appropriate in order to cause the matter to be decided promptly. If there has been no decision within six months, the Chief Judge may reassign the case to another judicial officer for retrial.

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