Sometimes spouses want to end the marriage immediately, but still have issues that are not yet satisfied in the settlement agreement. In these instances, the couple may choose to seek a bifurcated divorce.
What is a bifurcated divorce?
A bifurcated or divisible divorce is one in which the marital status is terminated by the court while settlement agreement issues such as child custody, support, alimony, and property division are decided at a later date. Usually one hears about a bifurcated divorce in connection with high profile marriages, but ordinary people can obtain a bifurcated divorce as well.
Why Some People Get a Bifurcated Divorce
Because some divorce cases can take months to resolve, 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 one spouse is seeking to remarry before the property settlement is finalized. Another reason is that one spouse wishes to be declared single for tax purposes. A compelling reason to seek a bifurcated divorce is when one spouse drags out the settlement agreement as a form of emotional blackmail, knowing the other spouse cannot get on with his or her life until the marriage is finalized. Another situation in which a bifurcated divorce may be sought is when an automatic stay is put on the divorce proceedings due to a bankruptcy action.
Not all states allow a bifurcated divorce
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 there are. Some states, such as Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, and Texas do not allow a bifurcated divorce. States such as California (California Family Law Code Section 2337) and Alaska (Alaska Statutes Sec. 25.24.155b) have specific laws regarding the bifurcation of a divorce, while Kansas has case law that has addressed the issue of bifurcation.
A court order is required for a bifurcated divorce
To have your divorce bifurcated; you must get a court order to do so. 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. Realize that obtaining a bifurcated divorce will be more expensive, due to increased lawyer fees, litigation and court costs.
Article by Tracy Achen of WomansDivorce.com, the premier divorce site for all women dealing with the issues of divorce. Tracy is also the author of Divorce 101: A Woman's Guide, the book that walks you through the divorce process with step-by-step instructions, worksheets, and divorce tips covering all of the practical aspects of going through a divorce.
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