Impatient? Get Divorced Now With a Bifurcation
California imposes a mandatory 6-month waiting period from the time of service before the divorce may be finalized. Oftentimes, a divorce is not ready to be finalized after this cooling-off period has passed and may take years to complete given complex property or support issues. For individuals seeking to terminate their marital status as quickly as possible after the statutory 6-month period has elapsed, there is hope: Bifurcation.
Benefits of Bifurcation
A bifurcation asks the court to divide issues in a divorce proceeding. The most typical version is the “status only” bifurcation, which allows parties to terminate the marriage even if all of the issues have not yet been resolved [Family Code § 2337(a)]. If successful, parties will restore their status to single persons while keeping other issues pending for resolution.
Typically, a person seeks a bifurcation if he or she will soon be remarrying, or if he or she wants to file as a single person on their taxes. According to the IRS, you may file as a single person if your divorce was granted by the last day of the calendar year. This may be beneficial for individuals who are paying child or spousal support, since these payments are tax deductible. Further, filing as a single person allows the individual to avoid sharing deductions.
Being returned to the status of a single person is that one is now free to marry again, even if the rest of that person’s divorce issues (property, support, custody, etc.) are not yet completely settled.
Burdens of Bifurcation
There are a few conditions to consider prior to filing a request for bifurcation. These include, but are not limited to, retirement plans through an employer, medial insurance coverage, and certain tax liability issues.
If either spouse has a retirement plan through his or her employer, the party requesting bifurcation shall ensure that there are no adverse consequences to the opposing party [Family Code § 2337(c)(5)]. Further, the opposing party may be reimbursed for any tax consequences as a result of the bifurcation [Family Code § 2337(c)(1)]. If one spouse maintains medical insurance for the other spouse and their children, he or she must continue to maintain the insurance or pay for comparable insurance or medical bills in the event that he or she cannot continue to maintain the current medical insurance [Family Code § 2337(c)(2)]. These issues can become very complex, so it is best to consult a qualified attorney to determine whether any of these conditions may affect your divorce.
How to Bifurcate a Divorce Proceeding:
Generally, a California judge will grant a bifurcation for almost any reason to expedite settlement or simplify other issues. Of course, the first thing to consider is how much time has passed. If you have surpassed the 6-month threshold, you are free to request that the court divide your case. Because timing is essential to the court’s determination of the matter, you should consult with an experienced attorney before filing your motion.
If you have been served a motion for bifurcation from your spouse, you may file a response, which provides you with an opportunity to be heard on the issues. To oppose the bifurcation, you must present compelling evidence that the case should not be divided. Since public policy favors the division of the issues for efficiency purposes, the opposing party must show that actual prejudice would result if the case were divided.