What is a Bifurcated Divorce?
A New Jersey bifurcated divorce is a marriage dissolution case in which the matter of the termination of the marriage is separated from other issues that come before the court in this type of proceeding. In other words, a New Jersey court will grant a couple a marriage termination and reserve the other issues before the court for further proceedings.New Jersey Law and a Bifurcated Marriage Dissolution
New Jersey law does permit a marriage dissolution proceeding to be bifurcated. With that said, bifurcating a divorce is not favored pursuant to New Jersey law. The applicable statutory provision governing marriage dissolution bifurcation states:
Bifurcation “shall be granted only in extraordinary circumstances and for good cause shown.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court has interpreted this statutory provision to mean that it “prohibits bifurcation except in the most unusual and extenuating circumstances.”Primary Issues Reserved by the Court
As was stated, when a divorce case is bifurcated by the court, the termination of the marriage relationship is separated from other matters that are at issue in a case. The most commonplace issues that are reserved by the court in a bifurcated marriage dissolution case include:
- Asset division and debt distribution
- Child custody
- Child support
- Parenting time
- Property valuation (oftentimes marital residence)
- Business valuation
- Business asset division
There are a set of more commonplace reasons in which a divorce couple may seek to have their case bifurcated. With that said, even if one or another of these reasons underscores a couple’s desire to bifurcate, a court has discretion to determine if unusual and exigent circumstances exist warranting a splitting of marriage dissolution from other issues in a case. With that said, more frequently used underlying reasons why a couple seeks a bifurcation of a divorce proceeding are:
- Complicate financial issues
- Tax implications
- Desire to remarry
- Domestic violence
- Prevent use of delay tactics by a party
There are a number of positive aspects to bifurcating a marriage dissolution case. These include:
- Permitting parties to end their marital bonds and more onward with their lives
- Ensuring an appropriate timeframe to address complicated matters in a particular divorce, including complex finances
- Protecting a couple’s financial interests, including being able to take advantage of certain tax benefits that might be derived by wrapping up financial issues at a later juncture in time
One of the reasons New Jersey laws limits the use of a bifurcated marriage dissolution process is because there are some negative consequences of taking this course which can prove to be rather significant. Among these potentially negative consequences of bifurcating a marriage dissolution case include:
Increased cost: The division of a divorce case into parts can result in increased costs for the parties. Indeed, oftentimes when a divorce is bifurcated the final cost of the marriage dissolution proceedings prove to be significantly greater than would be the case if a standard process was followed.
Incentive to delay: There are examples of bifurcated marriage dissolution case in which parties have taken advantage of the situation to unnecessarily delay a final resolution of the matter. There are times when a party to a divorce does this to antagonize the other spouse. Indeed, there are several less than appropriate reasons why parties to a divorce attempt to draw out a case.
Inefficient judicial process: Another negative aspect of a bifurcated divorce is that it further burdens an already taxed judicial system. Indeed, because of the pandemic, court schedules are particularly congested and bifurcating divorces only makes the situation worse.Importance of Legal Counsel in a Bifurcated Divorce Case
If you believe that you are in need of a bifurcated divorce, you need to give very serious consideration to the necessity of retaining legal counsel. As was discussed, New Jersey courts are legally required to be conservative when it comes to granting a bifurcated resolution of a divorce case. Consequently, you really will need experienced legal counsel who have experience in these types of divorce proceedings, an attorney that can make your case for bifurcation to the court.
The legal team at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen can provide you effective representation in a bifurcated or a more standard marriage dissolution case. You can reach our firm by calling at 201-845-7400.