What Is a Bifurcated Divorce in California?

You may have heard the term “bifurcated” used in the realm of divorce. What exactly is a “bifurcated divorce” and what does it entail?

In general, the word “bifurcate” means to split or divide something in two. In a divorce case, this means that the divorce process is divided into two. The matter of marital status is addressed separately from all of the other issues related to a divorce, such as whether alimony will be granted (and how much), child support, child custody and visitation, and the division of marital property and debt. Each divided unit is decided on its own, starting with ending the marital status of the two parties. The first legal unit allows both parties to be officially and legally divorced in status; you and your spouse are now legally single while your remaining issues are yet to be determined in court in later proceedings and ultimately finalized.

Generally, these other pressing divorce issues like child custody and property division must be resolved before a divorce can be finalized and decreed through the court system. Certain circumstances may arise in a divorce, however, that can make the process drag on for months or even years before all of the issues can be worked out. This is especially true in cases where the couple are engaged in a contentious battle over their particular divorce issues.

Why Bifurcate a Divorce?

Your next question might be why a couple might wish to ask the court to bifurcate their divorce – other than the fact they can’t seem to agree on anything.

Typical reasons for bifurcation can include:

  • One or the other of the parties (or both) wishes to remarry without having to wait many months or even years before legally able to do so.
  • Bifurcation stops one spouse from engaging in protracted proceedings as a way to spite the other, waste funds, or stop the other from remarrying.
  • Bifurcation may provide tax advantages for one or both of the parties.
  • Bifurcation may be needed due to the extra time required to resolve the division of complex assets/property; this could be due to the need to locate hidden assets, disputes over valuation of businesses, business interests, investment portfolios, expensive antiques or artwork, or other assets.
  • Bifurcation removes any legal responsibility for the other party’s accrual of debt or access to property that is acquired¬†as separate property while a divorce is pending.

Once your marital status is legally changed from married to divorced, you and your ex-spouse are freed from further shared financial responsibility accrued from then on. You are free to engage in other relationships without liability as long as they do not compromise the marital property and assets you accumulated during your original marriage.

Need to Learn More? Call Burch Shepard Family Law Group.

You may need to weigh your options when deciding whether to ask the court to bifurcate your divorce. Tax considerations, health care coverage, Social Security benefits, and other issues will need to be reviewed and analyzed to determine how bifurcation will impact them. You will want to weigh these considerations against how vital it is to speed up your return to a single status.

At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, you can work with a legal team that has more than 100 years of combined legal experience, an outstanding history of success, and a California Certified Family Law Specialist onboard to help you explore all of your options and move your divorce forward.

Contact us online or at (949) 565-4158 to arrange for a free, initial consultation today.