Home Divorce Lawyer What is a Bifurcated Divorce in Georgia?

What is a Bifurcated Divorce in Georgia?

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A bifurcated divorce, also known as a two-step divorce, allows a court in Georgia to legally end the marital status of a couple while reserving other divorce issues like property division, alimony, child custody, and child support for a later date. Understanding the bifurcation divorce process in Georgia is key for anyone considering this option.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The legal definition and requirements for a bifurcated divorce in Georgia
  • When bifurcation may or may not be granted by the courts
  • Strategic advantages and disadvantages to bifurcation
  • How property, finances, children are handled after legal separation
  • Tax implications of a bifurcated divorce decree
  • Tips for navigating the bifurcation process smoothly

And at the end of this article, you’ll have a clear picture of what bifurcation entails and whether it makes sense for your unique circumstances. Let’s get started!

What is a Bifurcated Divorce Legally?

According to Georgia code §19-5-3, a bifurcated divorce allows a judge to enter a final decree of divorce while reserving other issues for later resolution. Essentially, it separates the legal termination of marriage from financial and child-related divorce issues.

The key thing to understand is that a bifurcated divorce results in two separate court orders:

  1. A final judgment and decree of divorce that legally ends the marriage.
  2. A subsequent order resolving all outstanding financial, property and child-related issues.

So while the marriage itself is terminated, other matters like dividing assets, determining alimony or child support amounts are temporarily put on hold until addressed at a separate hearing or settlement.

Requirements for Bifurcation in Georgia

For a judge to agree to bifurcate a divorce, certain criteria generally must be met under Georgia law:

Both spouses must consent in writing to bifurcation. If either party objects, bifurcation will not be granted.

There can be no disputes about child custody, parenting time or child support that require resolution prior to the divorce being finalized.

There must be a demonstrated need for the divorce to be final quickly, such as a spouse wishing to remarry. Illnesses, military deployment or other life changes may quality.

Financial issues like property division or alimony cannot be so complex that they prevent a reasonably quick resolution post-divorce. Assets must be clearly defined.

If requirements are not met convincingly, the judge has discretion to deny a request for bifurcation and require all issues be resolved simultaneously before entering the final decree.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Bifurcation

With the legal definition and basic requirements out of the way, let’s examine some potential upsides and downsides of bifurcation to consider:

Advantages:

Allow remarriage sooner. For couples wishing to remarry expeditiously, bifurcation can finalize the divorce while reserving financial issues.

Clarity of marital status. Some prefer having the legal division of marriage occur separately for closure or to simplify legal/tax matters going forward.

Flexibility. Leaves open the option to privately resolve financial issues after the divorce is complete without ongoing court supervision.

Disadvantages:

More expensive overall. Requires payment of filing fees twice (for the divorce and subsequent financial ruling) versus wrapping issues into one case.

Delay of finances. put off property divisions, alimony or support until a later date which creates uncertainty.

Vindictiveness risk. Without resolutions locked in, attitudes could sour during the interim and hurt compromising on financial matters later.

Tax implications. Taxes must be carefully managed year-over-year as filing statuses change mid-process.

Overall bifurcation offers benefits but should only be pursued if there is demonstrated need for expedited divorce and financial issues appear reasonably straightforward. The potential downsides require careful consideration as well.

Property Division, Finances and Taxes Post-Bifurcation

One common question is how property, finances and taxes are handled after receiving a bifurcated divorce decree but before issues are fully litigated. Some general guidelines:

Property remains jointly owned until divided by subsequent court order. Spouses still have equal rights to property.

Health insurance can be maintained, but extended is not mandatory post-divorce. COBRA may be elected.

Taxes are complicated – the first calendar year is filed as married, then singly, then back to married. Consulting a professional is highly recommended.

Spousal support is not mandatory but can be temporarily negotiated by the parties until a permanent order.

Child support and parenting schedule remain undecided until the second hearing is held and an order entered.

Close record-keeping of income, expenses, property usage is critical. Taking precautions is wise to avoid conflicts that can derail later financial resolutions. Agreement on temporary handling of affairs helps ensure a smooth transition.

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Child Custody Considerations with Bifurcation

One area that requires special sensitivity with bifurcated divorces involves children. Here are a few important points related to child custody:

Bifurcation will not be granted if child custody is contested or complex arrangements need to be addressed.

Judges want to see a plan is in place to reasonably share parenting time on an interim basis if custody details are deferred.

A temporary parenting schedule and child support should be stipulated upfront to provide stability for children.

Spending time quality time with kids and fostering their best interests must remain the top focus for parents, not impatience to finalize the divorce process.

If conflicts arise over children during the interim period between rulings, it can harm the potential for an amicable permanent custody agreement later on.

While bifurcation allows a faster legal divorce, the temporary nature makes comprehensive and developmentally-wise arrangements for kids even more pivotal. Their wellbeing must come before any personal desires for an expedited process.

Is Bifurcation Right for Your Situation?

By now you have a solid overview of what bifurcation entails legally and practically in Georgia. But is it the best approach for your unique divorce circumstances? Here are some factors to seriously weigh:

Reason for urgency – Does a legitimate need exist or is it just impatience to move on? Will bifurcation truly meet that need quicker?

Complexity of finances – Are assets straightforward to value and divide, or will substantial untangling be required?

Children involved – Are custody, support and schedules amicably resolved, or does potential for conflicts and delays exist?

Communication with spouse – Can agreements realistically be reached on temporary arrangements, or is the relationship too high conflict?

Taxes and benefits – Do you fully understand Year 1 tax obligations and ability to maintain coverage like health insurance?

Cost comparison – How does pursuing all issues together in one case versus two hearings financially compare long run?

Bifurcation is not necessarily faster or easier – it just separates legal conclusions. If you’ve thoroughly assessed all impact and still it’s clearly your best option, then proceed confidently through the Georgia bifurcation process. Just be certain it’s truly the right path.

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Bifurcation Process in Georgia

Assuming bifurcation looks like the right choice based on everything we’ve covered, here are the basic procedural steps to obtain a bifurcated divorce in Georgia:

File a joint petition for divorce. This initiates the divorce case and requests bifurcation with stated grounds and requirements met.

Attend temporary hearing. Address interim arrangements like child custody, support, property usage, tax planning being utilized until the conclusion.

Entry of final judgment. If all in order, the judge will enter the decree of divorce terminating the marriage as of an effective date.

Transition to post-divorce phase. Change tax and insurance status, focus on cooperatively resolving remaining issues outside of court if possible.

Hold final hearing. Present any unsettled divorce issues to the judge for final orders and closure of the full case.

Proper documentation and stipulations at each phase are critical. Working with a Georgia divorce attorney experienced in bifurcations makes navigating the nuanced legal requirements much smoother as well.

Final Thoughts on Bifurcation

To summarize, a bifurcated divorce enables Georgians to legally split the termination of their marriage from the resolution of other divorce issues like finances and children. It is a two-step process with distinct merits and disadvantages depending greatly on the individual circumstances.

While bifurcation can expedite finalizing a divorce for some, the risks of added costs, tax uncertainties, and potential for conflicts to later hinder compromise on property or custody warrant serious careful review as well.

With thorough understanding of Georgia bifurcation laws, temporary implications, procedural steps and objective evaluation of one’s personal situation – including whether bifurcation is truly needed versus desired – informed decisions can be made. Just be certain to prioritize children’s stability and make their interests the top priority through any divorce process.

With diligent planning and preparation, bifurcation divorce can proceed smoothly when warranted. But if there are significant complicating factors, a traditional single-decree divorce resolving all issues simultaneously may ultimately prove the better route. Knowledge is key to discerning the optimal path.

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