Family Law in DC

Our firm was recently successful in the District of Columbia in obtaining a three parent Permanent Custodial Order, based on the District’s de facto parentage law. The Court found that there was clear and convincing evidence of one parent’s de facto parentage status, pursuant to D.C. Code Section 16-831.01(1)(B).

The factors the Court considered were that the de facto parent:

(i) had lived with the child in the same household for at least 10 of the 12 months immediately preceding the filing of the complaint

(ii) had formed a strong emotional bond with the child with the encouragement and intent of the child’s parent that a parent-child relationship form between the child and the third party

(iii) had taken on full and permanent responsibilities as the child’s parents, and

(iv) had held himself or herself out as the child’s parent with the agreement of the child’s parent, or if there are 2 parents, both parents.

Since that last phrase is in the statute, the statute implicitly authorizes three parent custody, so we felt very confident that we could obtain this custodial order for our clients. The Petition was by consent of all three parents.

Subsequent to the issuance of the Permanent Custodial Order, we attempted to obtain a Judgment of Parentage from the same Judge. Unfortunately, the Judge denied our Motion. We are considering how to amend the statute so that it explicitly authorizes such a Judgment as we believe such a court order would provide even stronger protections for these parental/child relationships.


Michele Zavos is a partner in the Zavos Juncker Law Group, PLLC, which practices family law in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. She has been a pioneer for over 30 years in creating legal protections for LGBT headed families. Her Firm won the case of Port v. Cowan in 2012, causing Maryland to recognize marriages between same-sex couples from other jurisdictions, predating Maryland’s establishment of marriage equality by popular vote. Michele is a selected member of the National Family Law Advisory Council for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton named her an “Angel in Adoption” in 2009. Michele and her law partner, Eva N. Juncker, were recently selected two of the top 25 divorce lawyers in Montgomery County by Bethesda Magazine. She was named Family Law Practitioner of the Year by the Bar Association of Montgomery County in 2013.