Home Divorce Lawyer What is Bifurcation in Divorce and How to Get One

What is Bifurcation in Divorce and How to Get One

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Divorce is never an easy process, involving many complex legal procedures and decisions that can deeply impact your future. One aspect many divorced clients ask about is bifurcation – what it means and how to request it as part of their divorce case.

In this detailed guide, we’ll explain what bifurcation in divorce is, the key advantages and disadvantages to consider, and the process for requesting a bifurcated divorce decree from the court.

Let’s dive in.

Bifurcation in Divorce

Bifurcation refers to the legal process of splitting or separating a divorce case into two parts – the termination of marital status aspects from the financial and property division aspects.

In a traditional “non-bifurcated” divorce, the court handles all issues – marital status, finances, child custody, etc. – together in one unified process from start to final decree.

With a bifurcated divorce, the court first addresses and rules solely on ending the legal marriage. Financial divisions like asset splitting, debts, alimony would be addressed separately later on through continued litigation or settlement.

Essentially, bifurcation divides the “divorce” part from the detailed “dividing assets/debts” part into two separate legal steps or judgments.

So in summary – bifurcation allows divorcing couples to legally cut marital ties sooner while still working out critical property/money settlements through a continued court process down the road.

Main Advantages of Pursuing a Bifurcated Divorce

With the basics explained, let’s dive into the top benefits bifurcation offers divorcing clients:

Quicker Ability to Remarry

The most significant perk is gaining freedom to remarry more rapidly. Once the marital status judgment is entered, either spouse is legally able to wed another partner right away.

This can provide closure and allow moving forward with new relationships while financial negotiations persist separately. For many, the desire to remarry outweighs drawing out the full case jointly.

Taxes and Benefits

Divorcing parties may obtain certain tax benefits or access joint financial accounts/investments sooner with bifurcated status. Single filing status for taxes becomes available immediately for the new tax year.

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Beneficiaries can also be changed on retirement funds, life insurance policies, and other accounts bifurcation provides. So various fiscal advantages can come faster.

Closure and Healing

Some divorce experts assert bifurcation fosters more closure psychologically by cutting the final emotional cord between ex-spouses quickly. This separation of tasks may ease moving on emotionally while the numbers are still sorted out in the legal realm.

Removes Leverage for Settlement

There are sometimes power dynamics at play financially where one spouse strategically delays the divorce decree for leverage. Bifurcation removes this potential for stalling as the marital status issue is settled up front separately from asset divisions.

As you can see, bifurcation presents quite a few potential benefits around expediency, personal freedom, financial perks, and emotional closure that make it appealing to divorce clients in the right scenario. But it’s not without some disadvantages to consider as well.

Main Disadvantages to Weigh

While bifurcation has its obvious perks listed above, it’s also important to understand potential downsides to evaluate when determining if it’s the appropriate path:

Delayed Asset Division Judgment

The biggest con is pushing off resolution of finances, debts, property settlements to a later date. Divorcing spouses may have to endure months or even years of continued litigation to achieve closure on all divorce issues.

Cannot Enforce Settlements

By law, bifurcation forbids using the threat of withholding the divorce decree as incentive to compel an ex to agree to settlements. So bifurcated parties lose this potential bargaining chip which could prolong negotiations.

Potential for Changed Circumstances

If significant time passes before finalizing the financial aspects, new conditions like a job loss, unplanned child, or other life changes may impact calculations and create disputes. Facts supporting judgments and rulings made initially could change.

Higher Legal Costs

The divided process requires paying attorney fees to address each judgment separately, extending legal costs over a longer timeline versus negotiating a final settlement up front together. Retainer amounts may need to be paid multiple times as well.

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Stress of Open Case

Some divorcing spouses find having unfinished business lingering court proceedings and protracted negotiations create unnecessary stress and limit their ability to fully detach emotionally.

Clearly, bifurcation does not fit every situation given its potential downfalls if drawn out timelines or leveraging power losses are concerns. Careful weighing of pros versus cons with legal counsel is advised.

Now that we’ve explored the core factors in a bifurcated divorce process, let’s outline the specific steps involved in requesting this option from a family law court.

How to Request Bifurcation in Your Divorce Case

The bifurcation process usually begins once a divorce petition has already been filed by one spouse and served to the other triggering court jurisdiction. Here are the typical steps:

1. File Motion for Bifurcation

The requesting spouse or both spouses jointly through their attorneys file a formal written motion with the court asking that the dissolution of marriage be bifurcated from other issues like finances.

2. Serve Other Spouse

A copy of the bifurcation motion is then served upon the other spouse by approved legal means like certified mail. This formally notifies them of the bifurcation request and places the issue before the court.

3. Submit Legal Brief

The moving party provides a supporting brief outlining the key facts of the case, relevant laws supporting bifurcation, and arguments explaining how the legal standards are met in their specific situation.

4. Respond to Opposition

Should the other spouse oppose bifurcation, they file a written response brief with the court. The moving party can then reply to any counter-arguments raised regarding bifurcation not being appropriate.

5. Court Hearing

An initial scheduling conference or hearing is held where each counsel has opportunity to present oral arguments for and against bifurcation directly to the judge. Any issues are resolved.

6. Court Order

Following applicable legal standards, the judge analyzes the merits and issues a written ruling typically within 30 days granting or denying the request to bifurcate the divorce proceedings.

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7. Bifurcated Schedule

If approved, the court signs corresponding orders adjusting calendars for a bifurcated process timeline separating status and assets portions with deadlines for each.

8. Status Judgment

The court schedules any necessary status hearings or trial to conclude evidence and enter judgment on dissolution of marriage only, reserving financial issues.

9. Continued Litigation

The now bifurcated divorce case stays open while parties either negotiate a settlement or have the remaining issues adjudicated in further proceedings to finalize the divorce.

The diligent steps and paperwork through counsel outlined above are prerequisites for a bifurcation request to properly be considered and decided by a family law judge. Proper law and grounds must also be established, so it’s advisable to bring an experienced divorce attorney onboard early in the process.

Now that we have covered the core information needed to understand bifurcation and pursue it through the legal system, let’s quickly summarize our main takeaways:

Key Takeaways

To recap, here are the critical points to remember about bifurcation in divorce according to this guide:

Bifurcation separates marital termination from financial negotiations into two legal judgments

It provides potentially quicker ability to remarry legally and access marital benefits

However, it may prolong the overall divorce timeline and raise total legal costs

The bifurcation process requires filing special motions and briefs clearly outlining the merits

Strong evidence and legal grounds supporting that bifurcation serves fairness and justice in context of the specific case are prerequisites

Judges have discretion to grant or deny the request based on facts and their interpretation of family law standards

Weighing advantages of expedited status clearly against drawbacks of delays is important before pursuing bifurcation

With this in-depth overview of bifurcation in divorce, I hope readers now have a firm grasp on the concept and procedure necessary to make an informed decision about the option in consultation with their own legal counsel.

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