What is a Bifurcated Divorce?

Understanding How Bifurcated Divorce Works in California

Man on Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego

You’ve decided to call it quits with your spouse, and now, you’re ready to move on with your independent life as quickly as possible. The problem is, it seems that your divorce process will take a lot longer than you’d like. What now?

Now may be the perfect time to consider taking advantage of a bifurcated divorce.

A bifurcated divorce is a process that can help you to move your case forward and obtain a judgment quickly. The question is, how exactly does a bifurcated divorce work in California

Let’s explore everything you need to know about bifurcated divorces in the Golden State.

What Exactly Is a Bifurcated Divorce?

“Bifurcate” means “to divide or split.” Therefore, bifurcation during divorce takes your marital status and separates it from your other divorce matters, such as property division, child custody, visitation, spousal support, and child support. 

Simply put, in a bifurcated divorce in California, you and your future ex-spouse can update your marital divorce from married to single as you work on resolving all of your other divorce issues. You essentially terminate your married status while your divorce matters are pending.

Reasons for Choosing a Bifurcated Divorce in California

Choosing a bifurcated divorce in California can be expedient for several reasons:

  • You may want to choose bifurcation if it seems that resolving your divorce issues will take a while and you wish to be legally viewed as single right away. 
  • Bifurcation won’t eliminate your outstanding issues, but it will help you to quickly reclaim your single status.
  • Choosing bifurcation may also be helpful if you or the other party are thinking about getting married to another individual. You can’t do this if you’re still married to each other. However, with bifurcation, you may remarry even if a final order has not yet been issued on your remaining divorce issues.

Additional Impacts of a Bifurcated Divorce in California

Let’s say you decided to take your partner’s surname when you got married. If you choose to complete a bifurcated divorce in California, you can reclaim your maiden name before you ever resolve all of your divorce issues.

In addition, once you complete marital status bifurcation, you can complete your income tax filing as “Head of Household” or as “Single” rather than “Married.” However, your bifurcation must be completed before the tax year ends if you wish to complete a “Head of Household” or “Single” filing in that same year.

Important Considerations Regarding Bifurcated Divorces

Note that in the state of California, you cannot change your marital status to single until at least six months have passed since the serving of your petition for dissolution. 

If you seek bifurcation before that period, the family law court will probably deny your bifurcation request. And, even if a judge grants your bifurcation request, your status won’t change before your waiting period has ended.

Also, bifurcation likely won’t affect your child custody issues during your divorce proceeding, but it may impact your division of assets. These matters include any issues involving some tax liability situations, workplace pension plans, and health insurance coverage. For this reason, it is critical that you contact a family law attorney to help you to navigate and understand what bifurcated divorce is, and what it means for you in California.

Take Advantage of Top-Tier Legal Guidance in San Diego, California

If you are interested in pursuing a bifurcated divorce in California, I, attorney Michael C. MacNeil, can help. I possess extensive experience with helping clients to navigate the complex ins and outs of divorce, ranging from child custody to the division of assets to restraining orders or more complicated criminal law matters as they relate to divorce proceedings.

Get in touch with me today to learn more about how I can safeguard your rights and your best interest during the divorce process in California.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.