Getting divorced is not something that can be done quickly. The fastest you can get divorced in Washington is 90 days, as this is the mandatory waiting period. However, most divorce cases take much longer, as the couple needs to work out all of the terms of the divorce or go to trial. If there are reasons why one or both parties need to achieve the marital status of single earlier than the finalization of the divorce – such as to remarry sooner – the courts may agree to separate, or bifurcate, the divorce case to achieve this goal.
Bifurcation is relatively uncommon in Washington. However, it is an option that is available to divorcing couples in certain situations. The definition of bifurcation is to divide something into two parts. In family law, bifurcation refers to dividing a divorce into two sections: marital status and the rest of the divorce. The purpose is to achieve the legal marital status of single before the rest of the divorce case has been resolved and the dissolution has been finalized.
Rather than waiting for the lengthy process of divorce settlement negotiations or a divorce trial, a party can apply for bifurcation and be deemed legally single immediately after Washington’s 90-day waiting period. One or both parties can do this by asking the court for a separate trial to deal with only the issue of marital status. During this trial, the petitioning party will need to make a case as to why he or she wishes to get divorced sooner through the process of bifurcation.
If a judge grants the request, both parties will be viewed as legally single while the remaining parts of the divorce continue on. Until the divorce is finalized, any health insurance that is given to one spouse through the other must be maintained. Anyone with a married last name can restore their premarital name after bifurcation. Both parties must then proceed with the divorce process until it has been finalized.
Most couples who seek bifurcation in Washington do so because one of the parties wishes to remarry sooner, without having to wait months or even years to regain the status of legally single. Bifurcation also provides several other advantages. For example, it can prevent one spouse from intentionally prolonging the divorce out of spite by removing this as leverage. It can also come with certain tax advantages for parties that wish to file as single in the new tax year.
If there is any reason why you would like to be viewed as single on a legal level without waiting for the finalization of your divorce, bifurcation might be the answer. However, the State of Washington strongly discourages bifurcation except in circumstances that are hostile or dangerous to one or both parties, such as cases involving domestic violence or threats to child welfare. This means it can be difficult to have a judge grant your bifurcation request unless the circumstances are dire. Whether or not a judge in Washington allows bifurcation depends on the judge and the reason for your request.
If you are interested in pursuing bifurcation during your divorce in Washington, a lawyer can help you with the required steps, including submitting your request and arguing your reason at a hearing. Your lawyer will let you know if this is the best option for your particular circumstances, as well as explain any potential repercussions of bifurcation. The right divorce lawyer in Washington can protect your best interests whether or not bifurcation is an option available to you during your divorce case. Discuss bifurcation further with a lawyer for free today during a consultation at Cohen Family Law, LLC.