In a divorce proceeding, bifurcation is the division of the divorce into two or more parts. In California, bifurcation is governed by California Family Law Code Section 2337. There are two types of bifurcation. In the first, the parties bifurcate the divorce by severing the issue of marital status from all other issues to obtain a “status-only divorce.” In the second, the parties bifurcate a single key issue from the rest of the case, and have a mini-trial to resolve that key issue. Both types of bifurcation can be especially useful to people getting divorced in today’s economic downturn.
Certain parts of a divorce such as the division and valuation of property, child custody, child support and spousal support can take longer to resolve than we would like. This is equally true whether the parties are negotiating or are preparing for trial. They may bifurcate the issue of marital status and reserve the court’s jurisdiction over all other matters. This can give them the peace of mind knowing that they are divorced, can move on with their lives, and can even remarry, while knowing that they will have the time necessary to properly resolve the other divorce issues.
A status-only divorce helps some people to resolve their more complex financial and custody issues in a detached and amicable manner, and helps save the emotional and financial costs of unnecessary litigation. In today’s economic downturn, people are looking for ways to minimize the costs of divorce. One way to do this, particularly there are issues that may require prolonged litigation or when one of the parties wants to remarry, may be a status-only divorce.
The determination of a single issue may have an enormous impact on the outcome in a divorce. For example, one of the factors that a California court must consider when determining spousal support is the length of the marriage. The length of the marriage is the time between the date of marriage and the date of separation. If there is a disagreement over the date of separation, this can lead to litigation over the proper amount of spousal support. If the issue of date of separation is bifurcated, a small trial is conducted where the court decides the sole issue of the date of separation. The decision can provide the parties with enough information for them to resolve spousal support without going to trial.
Other key issues that are bifurcated for a separate trial include the characterization of an asset or debt as community property or separate property, and the value of an asset such as a home or a business. In the present economy with real estate prices so far down, it is important to know how much income is in a family home before expending resources fighting over it.
Bifurcating a divorce may have serious tax consequences. It is not right for everyone. It can effect your health care and retirement costs, benefits, and obligations. If you are interested in bifurcation and you have a pending divorce, or if you are thinking about filing for divorce in Los Angeles, contact a Los Angeles family law attorney for a free consultation.