Bifurcation of Marital Status: Divorce
Divorce Taking Too Long?
Recently, a client came to see me, annoyed with the divorce process. She was married for 1 year 8 months. Her divorce has lasted nearly 2 years.
“Must I be married to him forever?”
No. you can be divorced by status (become single again), even if your divorce isn’t finished.
6 Months is MINIMUM
First, the 6-month statutory limit is a “minimum”. This means that you have resolved all issues, your paperwork is perfect and submitted, and you WAIT patiently for the Judge to stamp. In a mediated divorce, this is very possible. However, with a contested divorce, it is highly improbably that a divorce will conclude within that time. In my 20 years of family law, I have handled thousands of divorces. The average time of resolution is 9 months. The longest is 12 years. Why is my divorce taking so long???
What if the Other Side is ONLY Dragging it Out to Make My Life Miserable?
This does happen a lot. Perhaps they feel victimized. Or they seek revenge and want to punish you. Whatever the reason – if your divorce is lasting longer than your marriage, you have a solution to be divorced by status, even the issues remain.
You do NOT have to stay married forever. You can be single even though your divorce isn’t finished.
Seek a Termination of Status
California Family Code � 2337. Early and separate trial on issue of dissolution apart from other issues granted upon notice motion allows you to bifurcate the issue of your status, and is liberally granted if certain conditions are met.
6 Month Waiting Period
You need need to wait 6 months. This is the reconciliatory period mandated by the Courts to make sure you have explored all avenues to cure your marriage.
Exchange Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures
This is mandatory! You must exchange your preliminary declarations of disclosures, and file proof.
Conditions For Getting Divorces By Status
The Court will more than likely grant your request, however, there are protections in place for your spouse to make sure there is no prejudice.
For example, the Court may condition the divorce upon you keeping health insurance in place for your spouse. Also, there are tax consequences (sometimes filing single costs you more than filing jointly) and social security issues if your marriage is nearing the 10 year mark.
Don’t Forget, The Issues Remain!
So, 14 years ago, my client begged me to divorce him by status. I did. He became single and then ghosted me, leaving his $10,000 bill unpaid. Wouldn’t return my calls or emails. I have no doubt he was enjoying his bachelor life, but he just vanished, leaving the rest of his issues on the table.
14 years later, he calls me to tell me that his wife’s name is still on the retirement accounts and he cannot change beneficiary, blah blah blah. SOB STORY. He isn’t a victim. He did this to himself (and he owes me money!)
Just because you are SINGLE doesn’t mean your divorce is finished. Consult an expert family lawyer. They will better advise if it’s a good strategy, especially if you are considering remarriage.