Can I Get Legally Divorced Before All The Details Are Finalized?

There's no question that divorces take time, especially when there are contested or complex issues that can take years to resolve. Even spouses who agree on just about everything can still be hamstrung by a single issue such as division of a business or custody of a child.

Rather than wait to resolve issues like child support, spousal support, alimony and distribution of property before being single again, you can end your legal status of "married" quickly by seeking a bifurcated divorce. This can prevent one spouse from holding marital status hostage to secure a more advantageous settlement.

A "bifurcated divorce" typically (and most commonly) splits the process into two parts: the issue of the termination of the parties' legal status as "married," and everything else. (Note that the legal divorce process can be bifurcated on more subjects than just marital status; any pending issue can be bifurcated from the rest of the case and tried early if there is good cause to do so). Because California is a no-fault state, judges usually will grant an application for bifurcated divorce. However, you will still have to participate in the proceedings, including possible trips to court to work through resolving the remaining issues.

A bifurcated divorce can be an ideal solution when one or both spouses want to remarry. Rather than wait what can be months of not years for all issues to be resolved, a bifurcation can be granted in a matter of weeks, permitting spouses to remarry within a year of filing for divorce. Another reason for bifurcating the issue of marital status is the benefit of being declared single for tax purposes. Also, there are reasons to NOT want this to occur. For example, once the parties are no longer married that could negatively impact the availability of health insurance for a dependent spouse, something that person might not want. There are other reasons to resist a bifurcated divorce as well; every case is unique and every case will have its own context for analysis of this dynamic.

Keep in mind that resolving the marital status early could provide less incentive to resolve the other contentious issues in a timely and cost-effective way. Be sure to consult with your attorney about the pros and cons of a "bifurcated divorce."

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