California divorces take at least six months to complete, and that’s just the minimum. Most divorces take much longer, even years longer. For those hoping to get divorced sooner, there is something called a Motion for Bifurcation, which asks that the court terminate a marriage and restore each spouse to their single status.
In some situations, the judge may order a trial be bifurcated or that a particular issue within the case be tried separately. If there is not agreement on community property, for example, then the court may require that a separate trial determine whether or not that property was community or separate property and to determine the value.
The judge will grant a Motion for Bifurcation if one or both of the spouses are remarrying or if one or both of the spouses wants to file as a single person on their taxes.
Reasons for Bifurcation
In most situations, the judge will grant a Motion for Bifurcation if one or both of the spouses are remarrying or if one or both of the spouses wants to file as a single person on their taxes. Tax laws are very clear in that they allow you to file using your single status as long as the marriage is dissolved before the end of the calendar year.
For a spouse who is paying any kind of support (child or spousal) this is beneficial, because the support is 100% deductible on income taxes, but only if you are filing as a single person. On the other hand, the person receiving the support must list the support payments as income on their tax returns.
In addition to working with a divorce lawyer, you should also work with your accountant to learn more about disadvantages and advantages of filing jointly or as single individuals.
Paperwork and Timeline for Bifurcation
A Motion for Bifurcation can speed up some divorces, but it depends on your individual situation. It should be noted that even with a Motion for Bifurcation you cannot divorce any sooner than six months after your separation date.
Even with a Motion for Bifurcation you cannot divorce any sooner than six months after your separation date.
Before you can file a Motion for Bifurcation you must file a preliminary Declaration of Disclosure on the other party. Once that is complete, you can move forward to request the bifurcation.
Three to six weeks after you file the motion with the court (with copies sent to the opposing party), you and your attorney will appear before the judge, at which point the court will grant or deny your request. Assuming your case is straightforward, the court is likely to grant the request.
Conditions to Meet for Bifurcation
Even if the request is granted, you or your spouse may still need to meet certain conditions, including:
- If one spouse maintains medical insurance, he or she must continue to do so. If that’s not possible, then the spouse who requests bifurcation must pay for medical insurance that is comparable to the former policy or pay for medical bills incurred.
- If either spouse has a pension plan through their employer, the other spouse receives indemnification for the loss of death benefits.
- The opposing party must be reimbursed for any tax consequences or the loss of the right to claim probate homestead or family allowance.
If you want to take advantage of a bifurcation, be sure to file the necessary paperwork as early in the year as possible and not any later than November 15, since you will be one of many individuals looking to take advantage of bifurcation before the year ends.