Divorce bifurcation helps those who want a legal and emotional end to marriage as soon as possible, has tax benefits for those who wish to file as single, and prevents one party from employing delay tactics. Not all states allow bifurcation and using a divorce lawyer may cost more money, however.
It’s never pleasant to admit that a relationship has ended and the additional stress of legal proceedings involved with divorce can complicate matters even further. In some states, the court will allow a two-part process that dissolves the marriage first, leaving other issues for resolution at a later stage.
Declaring a marriage legally before dealing with complex issues such as custody and alimony can be beneficial in some ways, although there are some obstacles you have to consider. If you wonder whether there are any benefits to divorce bifurcation, read on to discover why this two-step divorce process is allowed in some states.
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Is a Bifurcated Divorce Good or Bad?
The concept of bifurcated divorces came about to speed up the resolution of some divorce cases, allowing the judge to separate and resolve some specific issues before others. It is certainly not applicable to all divorce cases and should be carefully considered.
Naturally, the advantages seem to speak more to those trying to dissolve their marriage amicably and by mutual agreement or those who experienced infidelity or abuse. But there’s more to bifurcation. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons:
Pros of Divorce Bifurcation
The advantages of opting for a bifurcated divorce outweigh the negatives, and these are not just limited to those parties trying to escape a toxic or dangerous marriage. Here are some of the pros to bifurcation:
- Moving on: A bifurcated divorce allows one or both partners to legally move on or remarry. Being declared lawfully single allows the parties to carry on with their lives and feel emotionally separated from a spouse that may have hurt them through infidelity, estrangement, or abuse. Bifurcated divorces can thus be very freeing.
- Complex financial issues and property classification: Opting for a bifurcated divorce allows the court to identify the status of property acquired at the time of the marriage – including real estate, vehicles, artwork, and business interests. This can help speed up divorce proceedings through a clear division of assets right from the outset.
- Tax status: As divorce proceedings can often take ages to finalize, those seeking divorce could opt for bifurcation as it would allow them to file their taxes as single and not married.
- Prevention of protracted proceedings: In the case where one party may seek to delay the finalization of a divorce, a bifurcation allows for the marriage to be terminated quickly. Although more complex issues still need to be dealt with, the other party cannot prevent you from moving on with your life out of spite or bitterness.
- No negative impact on support payments and other issues: Bifurcation can proceed without fear of impacting the remaining issues that need to be dealt with. This means that your marital status can be legally changed to single without affecting your rights to division of property or child support.
Cons of Divorce Bifurcation
While there certainly are numerous advantages, there are some things to consider about divorce bifurcation that may be a little more negative:
- Not all states allow bifurcation: Bifurcated divorces are only permitted in some states, such as California and Alaska, but the laws still vary across states and can be based on case law still. States such as Texas, Michigan, and Arizona do not allow bifurcated divorces.
- More expensive: A bifurcated divorce could be a lot more costly. Consulting with a divorce lawyer is imperative as each state has its own laws around splitting a divorce in this way. Drawn out litigation over complex issues could also increase costs.
- Delays are still possible: Although the marital status may be completed by bifurcating the divorce, one party may still sandbag the remaining processes by delaying resolutions. Thus, bifurcation isn’t a guarantee of a quick or hassle-free divorce.
Going through a divorce is generally quite stressful and sometimes the situation between the two parties can be helped by opting for a bifurcated divorce. While this isn’t available in all states, it’s worth looking into it as it allows parties to expedite the legal process of being declared single while other issues are dealt with later.
Issues that may be dealt with later on, after the court has declared the marriage over, include business valuation, alimony, child custody and support, and the distribution of property and assets. For some, these issues could be very complex and require a lot of negotiation. Bifurcation allows for the marriage to be dissolved in the meantime.
What is Bifurcation in a Divorce?
Legally speaking, a bifurcated divorce splits the divorce process into two parts: the legal changing of marital status and other issues relating to the ending of the marriage, such as custody, alimony, assets, and the like.
The idea is that the court can terminate the marriage and declare the parties single while allowing related issues to be managed either at a later stage or out of court entirely. The judge will thus give an early judgment in uncontested matters while leaving the more complex ones for mediation or trial.
Is a Bifurcated Divorce Right for You?
Depending on your unique situation, a bifurcated divorce may benefit you and your spouse. In cases where the desire to end the marriage is mutual, and there are only a few issues that could be complex, opting for a two-part divorce can bring the closure you both need by allowing the court to grant the dissolution of the marriage sooner.
If you feel your spouse is likely to oppose every process in the divorce process, a bifurcated divorce could also be helpful to cement the fact that the marriage is over before tackling the remaining complex issues. But remember that opting for this process doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be any hiccups in the future.
If you feel that this could be an option worth considering, engage a reputable divorce lawyer. You will need to find out what the laws are in your state and gain a better understanding of whether bifurcation would help or hinder your unique situation.
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In some states, courts will allow for a two-part divorce process that sees the marriage dissolved first while leaving issues such as child support, custody, alimony, and division of assets to be dealt with later. This process is crucial for those who are trying to end an abusive marriage or those who want to remarry or move on.
Although not all states offer bifurcated divorces, some will consider it under exceptional circumstances. It will require one of the parties to request a bifurcation, and to align with the specific laws of the state you reside in, consulting with a divorce lawyer is recommended.
While bifurcation is not a universal solution to an easy, trouble-free divorce, it can be helpful in specific circumstances.
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