What is a Bifurcated Divorce?

Bifurcation in Divorce

Given the number of issues that must be decided in a divorce, it can take a long time.

Issues with the following can delay the process:

What is Bifurcation?

If you and your spouse are unable to agree on some aspects of your divorce but can agree on others, you might be interested in filing a request for Bifurcation with the court.

To define bifurcation simply, it essentially means that you are “splitting up” certain aspects of your divorce where specific parts of your divorce will be decided on later.

This is filing process can either be stipulated to (agreed to) by both parties, or it can be made by one party over the objection of the other.

If the court grants a California Motion for Bifurcation, the court will separate certain issues of the divorce that can be easily finalized while leaving other issues to be tried separately later. A Motion for Bifurcation might be necessary if one person needs the status as a single person, or if one (or both) spouses want to get certain aspects of the divorce finalized while negotiating others. Bifurcating the marital status issue while waiting to agree on other terms of the divorce can help expedite the overall divorce process.

Bifurcation Divorce - California

The California Rules of Court provide for a separate trial of 13 issues:

  • Validity of postnuptial or prenuptial agreements
  • Separation date
  • Valuation date of assets
  • Legal Fees
  • Questions regarding separate vs. community property
  • Distribution of increased value of a business
  • Value of business or professional goodwill
  • Equitable property and debt distribution
  • Reimbursement claims
  • Marriage termination or the dissolution of a domestic partnership
  • Rights to custody and visitation
  • Alimony or Child Support
  • Other issues

To learn more about California motions to bifurcate, contact Feinberg & Waller, APC today.  

Common Reasons to Bifurcate a Divorce

Two common situations where a judge is likely to grant a Motion of Bifurcation, is where one or both of the spouses wants to (1) remarry or (2) file as a single person on their taxes. Since spousal support payments are tax-deductible, the paying party may want to file his or her taxes individually as soon as the payments are due. Since the courts often get backlogged with other taxpayers looking to file separately towards the end of the year, it’s important to file your motion for bifurcation no later than September 15.

Requirements and Conditions for a Bifurcation Agreement

Before a Motion for Bifurcation can be considered, you must file a preliminary declaration of disclosure on your spouse. This preliminary disclosure includes information about assets, debts, income, expenses, and other financial details that must be disclosed in a divorce. Three to six weeks after the Motion for Bifurcation has been filed with the court and copies are sent to the opposing party, you and your attorney will appear before the judge for a hearing on the motion. A judge will examine your case, and either grant or deny your motion. Almost all requests for bifurcation on the marital status are granted unless the opposing spouse can present compelling reasons for the denial.

Once requested, the court has the power to require the requesting party to submit to certain conditions. These conditions are generally meant to maintain the “status quo” and to protect the non-requesting spouse from damages should the requesting spouse die after the status bifurcation is granted but before the rest of the divorce is finalized.

These conditions include:

  • Maintenance of health insurance
  • Indemnification for the loss of death benefits for any pension or retirement accounts through either spouse’s employer
  • Reimbursement to the other party for any tax consequences resulting from the bifurcation in divorce such as homestead or family allowance deductions

The complete list of factors considered in calculating spousal support can be found in section 2337 of the California Family Code.

If you think that a bifurcated divorce may be right for you, contact our experienced attorney at Feinberg & Waller, APC to get guidance on this complicated issue.

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