Sometimes a divorce takes longer than expected because you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can't seem to iron out the last few details of your separation. In some states, couples are allowed to bifurcate (i.e., separate into two parts) their divorces. They are granted a legal divorce immediately, and other issues such as the dividing of the marital property are settled at a later date. While this proceeding may seem like a good solution, this type of divorce can actually cause more problems. Here are the few times when a bifurcated divorce is the smart option.
Three Times When Bifurcation Is the Answer
You should consider getting a bifurcated divorce when:
- Death of one spouse is imminent, and one or both parties want to get the divorce concluded to settle inheritance and other related legal issues before the soon-to-be deceased party passes away.
- One spouse wants to get married and the divorce proceeding is taking too long. It can take anywhere from 9 to 17 months to get a divorce. If the case is taking longer than that, then bifurcation may be one solution.
- One spouse is drawing out the divorce. If it appears one spouse is purposefully slowing the process as much as possible, petitioning the court to divorce now and settle other issues later may be the only way to obtain a legal separation.
So far, only California, Alaska, and Kansas have laws allowing bifurcated divorce, and Michigan, Arizona, Nebraska, New York, and Texas have laws disallowing it. All other states either don't have laws regulating this type of divorce or only allow it in certain situations. It's best to consult with a divorce attorney about what the law says on this issue in your state.
Why Bifurcation Should Be Avoided
A bifurcated divorce may have the opposite effect on ex-spouses who may have been stalling in all aspects of the process. With the pressure of the actual divorce removed, the person may continuously delay settlement of marital property and other issues.
The divorce will be more expensive, since you will have a minimum of two court appearances to attend: one to legally separate and one to settle other marital issues. If you and your ex-spouse can't resolve your issues on your own, then you'll have to appear in court several more times for the trial.
Lastly, a bifurcated divorce can have unintended consequences. For instance, a woman asked for and was granted bifurcation. However, about 10 months into the settlement negotiations, the ex-husband died. The woman petitioned the court to be named as the surviving spouse, but her request was denied because the divorce from her husband had been finalized nearly a year before.
While a bifurcated divorce makes sense in some situations, it's probably not the best course of action for most couples. However, it's best to consult with an attorney about all the options available to you for achieving the outcome you want in your divorce. Contact an office like Slayton Law to learn more.