WHAT IS A "BIFURCATION"?
When you bifurcate your marriage, you are no longer married...but you're not done with your divorce yet, either.
Under State law, you can "bifurcate" your marital status from all of your other issues (child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, distribution of property, attorney fees, and personal conduct) and return to the legal status of an unmarried (single) person. But because your other issues are unresolved, the court retains the ability to resolve them.
There are at least two reasons to bifurcate your marriage:
- Your divorce has been dragging on and on, and you just don't want to be married to that bitch anymore (which was my husband's case).
- It's well past the 6-month mark, and you want to get married again (to someone else, of course...not to your ex!).
CAUTION: The way the law is written (see the blue, bolded text below), even if you bifurcate your marriage, you could still be stuck paying for your ex's health insurance! So if you DO decide to bifurcate, tell your attorney that you want it stipulated that your ex will be responsible for obtaining and maintaining her own damn health insurance, whether through her employer or through COBRA (see my post "NOT Insuring Your Ex After Divorce").
My husband requested a bifurcation from the devil because even though they'd separated in August 2002, he and the devil were STILL married when they were ordered to a Status Conference in January 2005! Do the math...that's 2 years and 3 months after their separation date! His request was granted, and they were bifurcated in April 2005. Yes, I know...that's CRAZY! (Then again, so is the devil: Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, etc., etc., etc.)
Anyway, here's an excerpt from my husband's Order After Status Conference that you can use when talking to your attorney about bifurcation and healthcare insurance:.....“The parties stipulate and agree that the marital status shall be bifurcated and a judgment for dissolution of the marriage submitted to the court. ... In entering into this stipulation, each party acknowledges that medical insurance is available to him or her through their respective places of employment and upon entry of the judgment of dissolution contemplated herein, each party shall be responsible for obtaining and/or maintaining his or her own medical insurance coverage.”
So here's the kicker: after 6-2/3 years, my husband and the devil STILL don’t have a signed Judgment of Dissolution!!! And do you know, it doesn’t really matter because they're bifurcated! All of their other issues were settled at trial 8 months after their bifurcation, so - technically - they're done...but the devil won’t sign the final Judgment! Why? Because it's FAIR!
Family Code Section 2330-2348
2337. (a) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court, upon noticed motion, may sever and grant an early and separate trial on the issue of the dissolution of the status of the marriage apart from other issues.
.....(b) A preliminary declaration of disclosure with a completed schedule of assets and debts shall be served on the nonmoving party with the noticed motion unless it has been served previously, or unless the parties stipulate in writing to defer service of the preliminary declaration of disclosure until a later time.
.....(c) The court may impose upon a party any of the following conditions on granting a severance of the issue of the dissolution of the status of the marriage, and in case of that party's death, an order of any of the following conditions continues to be binding upon that party's estate:
..........(1) The party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any taxes, reassessments, interest, and penalties payable by the other party if the dissolution of the marriage before the division of the parties' community estate results in a taxable event to either of the parties by reason of the ultimate division of their community estate, which taxes would not have been payable if the parties were still married at the time the division was made.
..........(2) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall maintain all existing health and medical insurance coverage for the other party and the minor children as named dependents, so long as the party is legally able to do so. At the time the party is no longer legally eligible to maintain the other party as a named dependent under the existing health and medical policies, the party or the party's estate shall, at the party's sole expense, purchase and maintain health and medical insurance coverage that is comparable to the existing health and medical insurance coverage. If comparable insurance coverage is not obtained, the party or the party's estate is responsible for the health and medical expenses incurred by the other party that would have been covered by the insurance coverage, and shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting from the lack of insurance.
..........(3) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in a termination of the other party's right to a probate homestead in the residence in which the other party resides at the time the severance is granted.
..........(4) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in the loss of the rights of the other party to a probate family allowance as the surviving spouse of the party.
..........(5) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in the loss of the other party's rights to pension benefits, elections, or survivors' benefits under the party's pension or retirement plan to the extent that the other party would have been entitled to those benefits or elections as the surviving spouse of the party.
..........(6) Prior to entry of judgment terminating status, both of the following shall occur:
...............(A) The party's retirement or pension plan shall be joined as a party to the proceeding for dissolution.
...............(B) If applicable, an order pursuant to Section 2610 shall be entered with reference to the defined benefit or similar plan pending the ultimate resolution of the distribution of benefits under the employee benefit plan.
..........(7) The party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences if the bifurcation results in the loss of rights to social security benefits or elections to the extent the other party would have been entitled to those benefits or elections as the surviving spouse of the party.
..........(8) Any other condition the court determines is just and equitable.
.....(d) A judgment granting a dissolution of the status of the marriage shall expressly reserve jurisdiction for later determination of all other pending issues.
.....(e) If the party dies after the entry of judgment granting a dissolution of marriage, any obligation imposed by this section shall be enforceable against any asset, including the proceeds thereof, against which these obligations would have been enforceable prior to the person's death.