District of Columbia State Court System

Understanding how the system of District of Columbia court works is very important as it helps you find court records easily.

District of Columbia Courts Overview

To make your work easier, start searching for court records in District of Columbia by simply going to courts by county.

Superior Courts

The District of Columbia court system is a unified one and consists of Superior Courts only. Superior Courts have several court divisions, including Tax Division, Probate Division, Domestic Violence Unit, Family Court, Criminal Division, and Civil Division.

There are also other Superior Court Divisions besides trial court divisions that provide supervision and services for certain types of cases.

They have a Social Service Division charged with handling probation supervision for cases related to juvenile delinquency and other related cases that Juvenile Drug Court can handle. Superior Courts also have a Crime Victims Compensation Program. Besides, there is also a Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division that handles cases that have been referred from the Superior Court.

Civil Division

The Civil Division is one of the 6 court divisions of Superior Courts, and it has four branches, which include;

  1. The Civil Actions Branch which hears civil cases with claims exceeding $10,000, excluding fees, costs and interest.
  2. The Small Claims and Conciliation Branch which hears cases with claims amounting to $10,000, exclusive of costs, fees and interest.
  3. The Landlord and Tenant Branch primarily handles eviction cases that landlords file against their tenants or against other occupants of the real property. After the landlord has filed a case, the tenant is also allowed to make claims against his or her landlord. Besides, tenants who have not been sued by landlords for nonpayment of rent may also file cases with the Civil Actions Branch or the Small Claims and Conciliation Branch against their landlords.
  4. The Quality Review Branch that doesn’t handle cases but only provides the Civil Division with administrative support.

Criminal Division

It hears most criminal cases, including certain traffic cases, most misdemeanor cases and felony criminal cases. There is Domestic Violent Unit that handles some misdemeanor criminal cases that involve intra-family offenses. The Domestic Violent Unit is not part of the Criminal Division.

In addition, the Criminal Division also runs Community Courts, which hears some misdemeanor cases and traffic cases in some areas of Washington, D.C.

Family Court

District of Columbia Family Courts has 4 branches namely;

  1. The Domestic Relations Branch that operates the Marriage Bureau Section and also handles cases like legal operation, divorce, adoption, guardianship, and custody among others.
  2. The Juvenile and Neglect Branch that includes the Family Treatment Court and hears most cases that involve child neglect, child abuse, and juvenile delinquency.
  3. The Paternity and Child Support Branch that hears cases that involve child support and paternity.
  4. The Mental Health and Habilitation Branch that hears cases including treatment for persons with development delays, mental health treatment, and involuntary hospitalization.

Domestic Violence Unit

The Domestic Violence Unit handles certain types of criminal and civil cases involving threats of domestic violence or domestic violence. It hears cases when the parties involved are related to each other by marriage, legal custody, by having a child together, or by a current or past relationship, sharing a residence, or blood. The Protection Order cases handled by this court begin at the Domestic Violence Intake Centers.

Probate Division

It handles guardianships of minors, trusts, wills, estates, conservatorships and guardianships for incapacitated adults. It includes the Office of the Register of Wills that oversees the Probate Operations Branch and the Auditing and Appraisals Branch.

Tax Division

District of Columbia Tax Division has limited jurisdiction over cases involving reviews and appeals of civil tax penalties and tax assessments. It also handles criminal cases that are related to D.C. taxes.

District of Columbia Birth Records, Death Records, Marriage Records and Divorce Records

The DC Vital Records Division (DCVRD) maintains Birth Records and Death Records dating back to August 1874. Birth records become public after 125 years. Death records become public after 75 years. District of Columbia marriage and divorce records are managed by the Superior Court where the marriage or divorce was finalized.