Wondering whether or not you may be divorced before the end of the year, even if there are many unresolved issues in your case?
Often times, people who are divorcing would like to be divorced by the end of the calendar year. The most common reason for wanting a Judgment for Divorce entered prior to the end of the year is for tax filing purposes. One may not file a “single” tax return if she remains married on December 31st — That inability to file as “single” may lead to the person paying more state and federal income taxes. Others have very personal reasons for wanting to start the following year as a single person, but because the hay unresolved issues in their case like custody and support, they incorrectly believe that they do not have the option to get divorced. California law, however, has a process that allows divorcing parties to obtain a Judgment of Divorce returning them to “single” status, even if all financial or custody issues in their case remain unresolved. This process is called “Bifurcation of Marital Status.” Bifurcation may be reached by an agreement of the parties. However, if one party does not consent to a request to the bifurcation, the decision on whether or not to grant a request for bifurcation may be decided by a Judge. While Judges do not automatically grant a request for Bifurcation of Marital Status, if a party requesting the bifurcation agrees to certain conditions that are set forth in California Family Code Section 2337, it is more likely that the Judge will grant that request. Some conditions for bifurcation include, but are not limited to the following:
- The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must have been served at least six months before the requested status termination date;
- The person requesting the bifurcation must provide proof that she has given the other party full disclosure of her assets, debts, income and expenses; and
- Generally, the person requesting the bifurcation has to make certain guarantees, that include accepting all negative tax consequences that might arise as a result of the bifurcation, agreeing to pay for the other party’s health insurance until all remaining issues in the case are resolved, indemnifying the other party from any potential loss of retirement benefits that result from the bifurcation.
Anyone who is contemplating bifurcation of marital status must keep in mind that if she or he believes the other person will not agree (stipulate) to the bifurcation, that the motion requesting the bifurcation should be filed with the court well in advance of December to ensure that a Judge may decide the issue prior to the end of the year (if the matter is set after December 31st, then the parties cannot be divorced in the year the request for bifurcation is filed).