What is a Status Only Divorce?

One of the primary questions parties going through a divorce in California ask is “how do I actually get divorced?”  Well the answer is one of two ways (1) through an agreement usually referred to as a Marital Settlement Agreement; or (2) trial.

The next question usually is “how long is this going to take?”  The length of time to get divorced is really dependent on the Parties.  Pursuant to California law, Parties cannot be divorced for six months from the day the other Party was served with the Petition for Dissolution.  Many parties believe six months is a lengthy period of time, however, many divorces on average can take one year to finalize.

In settling a dissolution, two parties must come together and make agreements which is not always easy immediately following a separation when emotions run high.  There are multitude of other reasons a divorce proceeding can carry on for a significant period of time, including but not limited to, complex financial matters, health issues, etc.  So what happens if you want to remarry, or you just really want the status of a single person and your divorce is not final? One option is a status only divorce pursuant to Family Code section 2337 which states in part : “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.”

A status only divorce, also known as a bifurcated divorce, is a process whereby the legal status as a married person is separate from all other issues within the divorce such as custody, asset division, etc.  The court will generally authorize a party’s request for dissolution, so long as all financial disclosure has been completed, and the other party is not significantly prejudiced by the bifurcated divorce proceedings.  Family Code section  2337 , may also require the party requesting the bifurcated divorce to adhere to certain provisions which may include maintaining the other party on health insurance until all matters are resolved, a probate homestead in case you pass away before all matters are resolved, etc.

The process for obtaining a status only divorce is rather easy and may be the best possible solution to a divorce that is taking an extended period of time to finalize. Consult with an attorney before deciding to bifurcate your dissolution action, to ensure this is an option beneficial to your situation.