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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Bifurcation; Bifurcated Trial


Term Definition Bifurcation; Bifurcated Trial - in some jurisdictions, where the grounds for divorce and the property rights and support obligations are tried separately.
Application in Divorce Bifurcation is very common in criminal trials where the issues of guilt and punishment are decided separately. In liability cases, a personal injury or wrongful death can be decided apart from the action on the decision of damages.

Sometimes in divorce trials, divorce and property settlement are separated. Bifurcation can be used to accelerate the end of a bad marriage, and it prevents one spouse from using time as a weapon against the other; by the same token, it results in two trials, and it can take away the incentive to settle economic issues. Moreover, bifurcation is always more expensive than a single trial.

After the breakdown of a marriage, a separation, and long and painful (and expensive) settlement negotiations, most divorcing couples "just want it over." Yet as portrayed in the darkly comic movie War of the Roses, not all divorcing spouses can agree on settling all the issues of their divorce. In bitterly disputed or complicated divorce cases, the sound and fury are often division of the property and debt, and the parties involved may decide to actually have the court grant a divorce, thus terminating the marital relationship, but do so without making decision on one or several of the issues that need to be resolved. Bifurcation sometimes happens for tax reasons or when economic issues require complicated discovery and a longer trial.

Bifurcation of a divorce case is not permitted in all states or simply by request. Some jurisdictions preclude bifurcated divorce trials as a matter of law; others permit, but do not necessarily encourage, bifurcated actions. Generally, however, the separation of divorce and settlement happens when the spouses are close to settling or have the desire to settle, have a complicated financial to decipher, or other extraordinary circumstances.

California, which pioneered the liberalization of divorce in the 1970s, takes very generous view of bifurcation.

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