In family law and divorce law, the term “bifurcation” refers to a legal process by which the issues in a divorce are divided into two parts. One part focuses entirely on a single point of law: a request for a separate to restore the parties’ legal martial status from married to single. The other “half” of the bifurcation is comprised of all remaining, and as yet unresolved, issues in the couple’s divorce. These may include:
- property and asset division
- child custody
- spousal support/alimony
- child support and visitation
Bifurcation resolves only the issue of the spouses’ legal marital status. The rest of the issues will continue through the divorce process to an eventual conclusion in the future. And in high net worth divorce proceedings, which are generally complex by nature in terms of financial matters alone, these issues can proceed for whatever amount of time is necessary.
Why bifurcate? A reason good enough to satisfy the court is necessary. Some of these may include:
- Divorce negotiation has been in process for a period of time without agreement or settlement on the issues involved, and bifurcation would permit the parties involved at least to modify their legal marital status.
- One or both parties would like to remarry, and this is only legal if their status has been restored to “single.” This can actually take place in the same tax year that the bifurcation is granted. And, if desired, one or both parties may legally change their last name(s) back to their previous ones.
- One or both parties wish to file their tax returns not as “married,” but rather as “single” or “head of household.”
California legal requirements for bifurcation will be addressed in a subsequent post, but please remember, the content of this blog is intended not as legal advice, but only for information and/or discussion purposes. Should you have questions or concerns about how California family law may apply to you, you may wish to consult a knowledgeable family law attorney.
As Orange County’s premier family law specialists, the attorneys at Dinnebier & Demmerle can provide answers to your questions and concerns, clarify and establish your legal rights, and represent you in court. If you would like more information about bifurcation in divorce, or any other aspect of California family law, please call to set up a consultation. We’re ready to move forward when you are. Just contact us in Tustin at 714-598-3714.