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Consider the benefits of a bifurcated divorce

Do you worry that your divorce will end up dragging along because you and your spouse can't agree on a specific issue that's related, like child support?

If you live in California, you may be able to separate the issue that's holding things up from the issue of your final divorce papers. That process, called a bifurcation, can allow couples to end their marriage even though they haven't quite worked out all the details.

What does bifurcation entail?

In many states, you can't get divorced until every detail of the divorce is settled. That means that a contentious divorce -- especially if there are complicated finances involved -- can drag on for years.

In California, as long as both parties agree to the process, the divorce can be finalized and the parties are relatively free to move on -- even if they still have to negotiate or fight out the remaining issues. In some cases, you may even be able to obtain a bifurcated divorce over your spouse's objections.

What are some good reasons for bifurcation?

There are several different reasons you and your spouse may want to take advantage of bifurcation, including:

  1. Remarriage: The ability to remarry is probably the most common reason a couple opts for bifurcation. While there is still a six-month waiting period for a divorce, that's considerably less time to wait to remarry than you might spend otherwise.
  2. Tax concerns: Your marital status as of the last day of the year affects your ability to file as "head of household" on your federal tax forms. That can be a significant financial reason to push for bifurcation.
  3. Attorney fees: Separating the issues may make the whole process less cumbersome, which means that you may not run up as many legal fees over time.

What are some of the issues that can be bifurcated?

There are a number of different issues that commonly delay divorces, and most of them can be bifurcated. This includes:

  • Custody and visitation issues
  • Spousal support (alimony)
  • The validity of a prenuptial agreement
  • The valuation and ownership of a business
  • The distribution of debts and assets

If you think that a bifurcated divorce might be a good solution for some of your problems, a divorce attorney can help you look at the issues involved and make sure that it is something you want to pursue.

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