There are some situations in which a divorce decree may be needed or desired sooner than all of the property issues can be settled. For these couples, it is possible to seek a bifurcated divorce.
Hammond divorce attorneys know that while many couples may want the entire matter done and over with at once, there are times when dispensation of property and distribution of debts can be rather complicated and require more time. That could be time that those involved aren’t willing to wait.
State law (IC 31-15-2-14) requires that both parties agree to a bifurcated divorce before the court will grant it. If you aren’t on great terms with your soon-to-be-ex, this is all the more reason to hire an experienced attorney who can help you negotiate.
One reason people commonly seek bifurcation is that one or both parties wish to remarry. Another is that people simply want to put the entire ordeal behind them emotionally as quickly as possible.
Bifurcation can also be advantageous if your spouse has been dragging out the process by arguing about issues of property settlement. A bifurcation allows you to have the divorce finalized, and yet set aside the property settlement issues to be decided separately. Or if the wife is pregnant and the husband is not the father, a bifurcation can help the husband avoid the presumption of spousal paternity that would otherwise be attached when the child is born.
State laws vary dramatically on the issue of bifurcation, with some granting it very liberally, and others hardly ever. Indiana is somewhere in between.
The recent case of Hoover v. Hoover, heard by the Georgia Supreme Court, is one example of how the process can work.
The couple in question was enduring a highly-contested divorce, with numerous matters to be settled, ranging from child custody and child support, to alimony, distribution of property and other matters. The couple agreed to a bifurcated divorce, with the child custody matters settled first, and the other issues later.
The court held a bench trial in June 2012 on the issue of child custody, issuing joint physical and legal custody of the children.
The other issues were set aside for a jury trial after the divorce was finalized. However, before that could occur, the pair reached a mutual settlement agreement on the property issues, and the final divorce decree was issued at that time, in February 2013.
Within 30 days of that order, the wife filed a motion for a new trial on the issue of child custody. The divorce court dismissed this on the grounds that it was untimely, considering the child custody trial had been settled many months earlier. The state supreme court reversed the dismissal, finding that the motion was timely filed because it was within 30 days of the final judgment in the case.
Many bifurcated cases do end with a final judgment at the time the initial issues are resolved, so that makes this case a bit outside the norm. Still ,this would not be completely unheard of.
Bifurcated divorces aren’t for every situation, and there can be some disadvantages as well. It’s something you should initiate and/or agree to only after careful consideration and consultation with your attorney.
Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Hoover v. Hoover, April 22, 2014, Georgia Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Daniel v. Daniel – Military Benefits as Marital Property in Divorce, April 15, 2014, Hammond Family Law Attorney Blog