Most people don't know what a bifurcated divorce is or may have only heard about it in relation to divorces among the rich and famous.
by Tracy Achen
What is a bifurcated divorce? It is the division of a divorce case into two or more parts. For example, the marital status of a couple can be terminated by the court while settlement issues such as child custody, support, alimony, and property division are decided at a later date. It can also be an option when a couple agrees on everything but one specific issue, such as determining the division of a business or the custody of a child.
You'll usually hear about this type of divorce in connection with high profile marriages, but ordinary people can use this option as well.
Because some divorce cases can take months to resolve, a couples may seek to have their divorce divided in order to have their marital status changed as soon as possible. This may be the case when:
Divorce bifurcation ends the marriage, while reserving other issues for a later date. Some of these issues:
Not all states will allow a divorce to be bifurcated. Because state laws vary on the subject of bifurcation, a person considering this route should consult with their lawyer to see if it is allowed in their state and what restrictions apply.
Some states, such as Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, and Texas do not allow issues to be split up in a divorce. On the other hand, California (California Family Law Code Section 2337) and Alaska (Alaska Statutes Sec. 25.24.155b) have specific laws regarding the bifurcation of a divorce. And still other states have case law that has addressed the issue of bifurcation in divorce. (1)
Most courts require the filing of a motion for bifurcation, but the procedures will vary from state to state. The decision to bifurcate your divorce case will be at the discretion of a judge, who will schedule a hearing to decide whether bifurcation is appropriate in your case.
If you choose to pursue the option of splitting up your divorce, you need to take into consideration that obtaining a bifurcated divorce will be more expensive, due to increased lawyer fees, litigation and court costs. Carefully discuss the pros and cons with your lawyer before proceeding with this option.
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