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What is a Bifurcated Divorce?

Is a bifurcated divorce your best option? A bifurcated divorce lets you end your marriage legally before...

What Is a Bifurcated Divorce in California?

California Divorce Bifurcation

In California, a bifurcated divorce allows you to terminate your marital status before resolving all other issues related to the divorce, such as property division, child custody, and support. This means obtaining a judgment restoring you to the status of a single person, even while negotiations on other aspects of the divorce continue. Essentially, the process splits the divorce into two phases: the termination of the marriage, and the resolution of all remaining matters.

The most common thing to bifurcate is marital status, but other aspects of a divorce (like child custody or validity of a prenuptial agreement) might also be bifurcated with the court’s permission.

Reasons for Requesting a Bifurcated Divorce

There are several compelling reasons why someone might seek a bifurcated divorce in California:

    • Remarriage: If one or both parties wish to remarry, they can terminate the existing marriage through bifurcation. This often occurs when there might be religious reasons for a new marriage.

    • Tax Benefits: Single tax filing status might be advantageous for one or both spouses, and bifurcation allows them to access those benefits sooner.

    • Psychological Closure: Ending the marriage legally can offer emotional closure and allow individuals to move on, even if the financial and custodial parts of the divorce are complex and time-consuming.

    • Expediting Complex Situations: If the property division or custody negotiations are likely to be lengthy and contentious, bifurcation of marital status streamlines at least one aspect of the process.

How Do I Ask for a Bifurcated Divorce?

To request a bifurcated divorce in California, you must wait a minimum of six months after the divorce petition is served on your spouse. After that, you’ll need to:

    • File a Motion: File a motion (a formal request) with the court requesting bifurcation. Your motion should clearly state the specific issue(s) you want to be bifurcated and provide reasons to support your request.

    • Serve Your Spouse: Your spouse must be legally served with a copy of your motion.

    • Attend a Hearing: The court may schedule a hearing to discuss the request for bifurcation. Be prepared to explain your reasons and argue for why a bifurcation is appropriate in your case.

Are There Downsides To Bifurcating a Divorce in California?

While bifurcation has benefits, there are also some potential downsides to consider:

    • Increased Expenses: Filing a motion and potentially attending court hearings can add costs to the divorce process.

    • Potential Complexity: Bifurcation can complicate certain aspects of property division or financial settlements, especially if a remarriage occurs before other aspects of the divorce are finalized.

    • Reduced Leverage: Some argue that once a spouse achieves single status, they might have less incentive to negotiate other parts of the divorce fairly.

Can bifurcation be denied?

Yes, bifurcation can be denied in California. While it’s often granted, the judge has discretion to deny the request based on several factors:

    • Prejudice to One Party: The court might deny bifurcation if it believes doing so would significantly disadvantage one of the spouses. For example, if financial issues are intertwined in a complex way, bifurcating the status might create unfair situations.

    • Lack of Compelling Reason: If the judge doesn’t see a strong reason for bifurcation (beyond mere desire to move on), they might reject the request. Sometimes the court believes it’s more efficient to handle all divorce aspects together.

    • Contested by the Other Spouse: If your spouse strongly opposes the bifurcation, the court is more likely to take their objections into consideration and might require more convincing arguments for why the bifurcation is necessary.

What is the bifurcation process?

The general bifurcation process in California involves these key steps:

    1. Waiting Period: California has a mandatory six-month waiting period after the initial divorce petition is served before you can request bifurcation.

    1. Filing the Motion: You (or your attorney) file a formal motion with the court requesting the bifurcation. The motion should clearly state the issue(s) you want to bifurcate (usually marital status) and outline your reasons for this request.

    1. Declaration of Disclosure: You must file a preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, outlining your assets, debts, income, and expenses. This ensures both parties have basic financial transparency.

    1. Serving Your Spouse: A copy of your motion and the Declaration of Disclosure must be legally served on your spouse.

    1. Potential Hearing: The court may hold a hearing to discuss the bifurcation request. Be ready to explain your reasons and potentially address any objections from your spouse.

    1. Judge’s Decision: If the judge approves the bifurcation, an order will be issued, often terminating the marital status. Negotiations on other aspects of the divorce would continue separately.

Important Notes:

    • The specific process may vary slightly depending on the court and the complexity of your case.

    • It’s always advisable to consult a California family law specialist like Charles M. Green to guide you through the bifurcation process and protect your interests.

Bifurcation FAQs

What is a bifurcated divorce in California?

A bifurcated divorce lets you end your marriage legally before finalizing all other divorce aspects like property division or custody. You become officially single while other issues are still being negotiated. This process splits your divorce into two phases.

Why would someone choose a bifurcated divorce?

Common reasons include wanting to remarry, potential tax benefits, a desire for emotional closure, or simplifying a complex divorce case.

How do I request a bifurcated divorce in California?

Wait six months after the divorce petition is served, then file a motion with the court requesting bifurcation and outlining your reasons. You must also file a preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. The court may hold a hearing before making a decision.

Can a bifurcation request be denied?

Yes, the judge might deny bifurcation if they think it will unfairly harm one spouse, if your reasons aren’t compelling, or if your spouse strongly contests it.

Are there any downsides to a bifurcated divorce?

Bifurcation can increase costs, might complicate some financial issues, and some people argue it can reduce motivation to finalize the remaining aspects of the divorce.


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Attorney Charles M. Green, Esq.

Charles M. Green, a Certified California Family Law Specialist, offers a strategic advantage in complex divorce cases. His distinctive combination of financial expertise and California divorce litigation experience ensures a thorough understanding of the legal and financial nuances involved. If you’re seeking a bifurcated divorce in Los Angeles, California, Charles will navigate this process with precision, protecting your financial interests while advocating for a favorable outcome. His approach empowers clients to make informed decisions, providing clarity and confidence during confusing circumstances.