Bifurcation of Marital Status

The timeline for an entire divorce, from the parties’ separation to the final dissolution, can take several months, even years. California has a mandatory six months waiting period to enter a divorce from the date of filing the petition for divorce. In certain cases, the parties do not want to wait that long to get a final judgment of divorce. Fortunately, the court may separate and grant an early and trial on the issue of dissolution of the marriage status only and handle the remaining issues of the case later. This would allow for a couple to go from married to single before finalizing the rest of the divorce.

Some couples prefer to handle the issue of status only ahead of time for various reasons. One reason may be remarriage. Because it is against the law in California to be married to more than one person at a time, the dissolution of the first marriage is required. Another reason may be for tax purposes. A taxpayer may file their taxes with whatever status they were by the end of the applicable year. So, if a taxpayer was married for eleven months of 2015, but became divorced in December, he or she may file their taxes as “single.”

Some people also wish to become legally divorced by a court for health or beneficiary designation reasons. If one party passes away while still legally married to their spouse, and they have not removed that spouse as the beneficiary of their assets, then that person may still take those benefits as the surviving spouse.

Courts will also bifurcate or hold a separate trial before the final dissolution on any other important issue that must be decided prior to the final dissolution. For example, many couples disagree as to the date of separation since this date can have a substantial financial impact on the division of assets. A court may order for a separate trial on this issue alone in order to allow for the remainder of the case to move more quickly or in order to promote settlement between the parties.

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