By Marissa A. Oxman, Esq.
California only permits people to have one spouse at a time. So, when spouses are going through a divorce and one spouse wants to marry someone else, the only way to legally remarry is to file a motion to bifurcate and terminate marital status in the divorce case.
“Bifurcate” is a legal term that means separate. When a judge bifurcates an issue in a court case, it separates that issue out from the rest and, usually, resolves it first. “Terminating marital status” means to change spouse’s legal marital status from married to single. When a judge bifurcates and terminates marital status in a divorce case, he/she has separated legal marital status from the rest of the case and made the spouse’s legally single before the rest of the case is finished. Once the spouses are legally single, they can remarry even if the rest of their divorce is not finished.
Bifurcating and terminating marital status in a divorce case requires a court order or an agreement that turns into a court order. If an agreement cannot be reached, then a motion is required to get the court order. The judge cannot enter an order or agreement bifurcating and terminating marital status until 6 months after both spouses are served with the divorce paperwork (mandatory waiting/cool-off period).
So long as the 6-month waiting period has passed, judges generally grant requests to bifurcate and terminate marital status because bifurcation and termination orders, generally, have very little effect on the rest of a divorce case. But smart spouses make sure the bifurcation and termination order specifically address issues they care about. The orders can include provisions that say all of the rights to assets and debts from the marriage are preserved. These provisions are especially important when one or both spouses has retirement. The orders can also address whether one spouse should stay on the other’s health insurance.
This blog is not meant to provide legal advice, and the law may have changed since it was written. Every person and every case is different. You should speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances. If you are looking to bifurcate and terminate your marital status or oppose a motion to do so, Core Law Group can help. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.