Bifurcating marital status in California is the topic of this blog post.
Bifurcating marital status in California allows both parties to obtain a court order terminating marital status in California dissolution (divorce) proceedings regardless of whether the other issues in the case have been settled or not.
In California it can take up to several years for contested divorces to work their way through the courts in California, as a result many spouses want to terminate the marriage quickly. This is particularly true now that the financial crisis has resulted in the courts in California having to lay off support personnel such as clerks. This has caused the courts in California in certain counties to take much longer to schedule hearing and trial dates.
There are also often situations in which it makes sense to have a separate trial of a particular issue. Bifurcation basically means that either the marital status is terminated and the parties are restored to their single status or a separate trial is to be held concerning a specific issue.
Bifurcations are generally requested because one or both of the spouses want to remarry. They are also sought because one or both of them want to file their tax returns for the current year as a single taxpayer.
The tax laws in the United States state that a person can file as a single person as long as his or her marital status was terminated before the end of the year. Thus, even if the marital status is terminated on December 31st, the taxpayer can still file as a single person for the entire year. This can result in significant tax savings, particularly for the person who is paying spousal or family support.
Payments of spousal and family support are 100% deductible for the person who is ordered to make those payments and must be reported as income by the person receiving them. Income tax laws state that these support payments are not deductible if the spouses file a joint tax return.
The court also has the power to issue an order bifurcating the trial of certain issues. For example, where there is a family business that was owned before the marriage, the spouses might disagree as to whether it is community property or the separate property and what it is worth. If the business is ultimately found to be the separate property of the spouse who started it, the value of the business would be irrelevant. In such a case, the judge might order that there will be a bifurcated trial to first determine if the business is community property or separate property. If the result of that trial is a finding that the business is community property, then there would be a trial on the value to be placed on it.
The law provides that the marital status can be terminated not less than six months from when the respondent was served with the petition for dissolution of marriage. So, only cases in which the respondent was served or made a general appearance on or before June 30th can be bifurcated during that year.
Most courts require the filing of a motion for bifurcation, although some courts allow it to be done simply by filing a written stipulation. Anyone considering requesting bifurcation should check with their court to determine if a written stipulation is acceptable.
If a motion is required, the appropriate court papers must be prepared, which must then be filed with copies mailed to the spouse or his/her attorney.
Approximately 6-8 weeks or more after the motion is filed, the requesting spouse and his/her attorney if they have one have to appear before the judge, who will almost always grant the request.
California law favors bifurcation in the absence of particularized, compelling reasons to the contrary. Under this approach, bifurcation will be granted for almost any reason, such as possible tax advantages, fewer constraints in social and financial matters, or the fact that the property issues will require more discovery and a more lengthy trial.
While the granting of a request for bifurcation of the marital status is virtually automatic in the great majority of cases, there are some prerequisites and conditions that must be followed by the requesting party. Initially, the party requesting bifurcation must serve his or her preliminary declaration of disclosure on the other spouse before the request for bifurcation is filed.
The judge will usually impose certain conditions on the granting of a bifurcation.
(1) The obligation to reimburse opposing party for any tax consequences or loss of right to claim probate homestead or family allowance; (2) The employee-spouse must maintain existing medical insurance for the other spouse; (3) The employee-spouse must indemnify the other spouse for loss of pension death benefits. In addition, the law requires that, before a bifurcation is granted, the pension plans of the spouses must be joined in the divorce case.
The condition that the existing medical insurance be maintained is particularly significant. Under that condition, the spouse requesting bifurcation must maintain existing medical insurance for the other spouse. If such coverage is no longer available, the requesting spouse must purchase medical insurance for the spouse that provides coverage that is comparable to the existing coverage. If such insurance is not available, the requesting spouse must pay for all medical bills incurred by the other spouse that would have been paid by the existing medical coverage.
As previously mentioned, a person can file as a single taxpayer for the entire year, as long as the marital status was terminated sometime in that year, even as late as December 31st. This is why there is usually a flood of bifurcation motions filed at the end of the year. To make sure that the clerk places a bifurcation motion on the court's calendar before the end of the year, the motion should be filed not later than October 1st, if not earlier.
Attorneys or parties in California that would like to view a sample points and authorities in support of a motion to bifurcate marital status in California sold by the author can use the link shown below.
Attorneys or parties in California who would like more information on a California dissolution document collection containing over 45 documents including a sample points and authorities in support of a motion to bifurcate marital status in California sold by the author can use the link shown below.
The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for sale.
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Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.
The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.