Divorce can be an arduous process that becomes more and more complex depending on the number of community assets a couple has to divide as well as child custody and support issues they must resolve. The process may involve many sessions of mediation and time-consuming negotiations to work out an agreement that satisfies both parties and ensures the best interests of the children.

California is one of a handful of states that offer couples caught up in a drawn-out divorce process another option to help them move on with their separate personal lives before resolving all the financial aspects of their time together as a married couple. A bifurcated divorce separates the divorce into two separate parts, the legal and the personal, so both parties can move forward with their personal lives while waiting for settlement agreements and judgments on the finances in their case.

How Does a Bifurcation Work?

A bifurcation ends a couple’s marriage and restores their single status while they await the resolution of the legalities in their divorce including the division of marital assets, such as community property and debts incurred during their marriage. For couples with complex financial situations, a divorce can take many months or even years.

With a bifurcated divorce, California’s Family Code allows a judge to grant a couple’s divorce by treating their personal union as a matter separate from the division of their property and settlement of child custody. With a bifurcated divorce, couples can live separate personal lives, including having relationships with others and even remarrying while their financial agreements are tied up in the legal process.

Legal issues that a bifurcation separates into a separate matter from the actual marriage dissolution include:

  • Determining separate from community property
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Property and debt division
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Validity of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
  • Valuation and separation dates
  • Bankruptcy proceedings

For some divorcing couples, a bifurcation offers one or both spouses the opportunity to move forward with their lives more quickly without waiting for settled disputes. In some cases, one spouse purposely sabotages negotiations in order to delay the divorce or as a form of punishment to their ex-partner. A bifurcation may be a way to end the relationship ties more quickly.

How to Get a Bifurcated Divorce in California?

The spouse who wishes to bifurcate their divorce must file a request for bifurcation to a judge, including a detailed explanation of the reason they wish to bifurcate their marital status from the legal status of their case. The court may choose to grant the request or they may deny it based on the details of the case. Other terms required for a bifurcation include:

  • The preliminary financial declaration of disclosure must be completed and served to the spouse
  • It must be at least 6 months after petitioning for marriage dissolution
  • You must appear before a judge with your Los Angeles divorce lawyer
  • You may have to agree to some conditions such as maintaining health insurance coverage for the ex-spouse
  • You may have to reimburse the opposing spouse’s tax consequences for claiming fewer dependents or probate homestead
  • You may face indemnification for death benefit loss

Bifurcating a divorce has benefits and drawbacks. Anyone considering a request for a bifurcated divorce should review their options and the details of their case with a family law attorney.