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“In many instances, a trial court calendar may be so congested that it is not practical to bring a matter to trial within the six-month time period during which a termination of marital status may be granted. To handle this situation, California has long followed a policy of divisible divorce, which authorizes the termination of the marital status of the parties prior to the resolution of the remaining issues in the case. [Re Marriage of Lusk (1978, 4th Dist) 86 Cal App 3d 228, 150 Cal Rptr 63] It is common for a court to enter an order authorizing a party to proceed to obtain a termination of marital status, followed by a judgment terminating that status. The policy of the law favors bifurcation, and only slight evidence is required to grant a bifurcation and a resolution of marital status. [Gionis v. Superior Court (1988, 4th Dist) 202 Cal App 3d 786, 248 Cal Rptr 741]”

“Though bifurcated judgments terminating marital status occur with regularity, the effect of termination causes a significant alteration of marital rights which needs to be addressed. The loss of the status as a spouse can have adverse consequences in the event of the death of one of the spouses. The legislature has adopted conditions that are to be imposed with the order for bifurcation. These include permitting either spouse to be treated as a surviving spouse for purposes of probate homestead rights, family allowance rights, survivor benefits for pension plans, and the provision that a party’s estate shall hold the other party harmless from any loss resulting from a termination of marital status. Although it would not appear that there are any adverse consequences from a division of property following a bifurcation of marital status, the court should retain jurisdiction to allocate adverse tax consequences to a party seeking early termination of marital status in the event there are such adverse tax consequences. The court should also retain jurisdiction over all other issues pending final resolution, and require that all temporary orders remain in effect, including the maintenance of health insurance coverage for the benefit of the other spouse and minor children. [Fam. Code, § 2337] The death of one spouse following the entry of a bifurcated dissolution of marriage does not divest the court of jurisdiction to divide property interests between the surviving spouse and the estate of the decedent. [In re Marriage of Hilke (1992) 4 Cal.4th 215, 14 Cal. Rptr. 2d 371, 841 P.2d 891] This is to be distinguished from the case in which a spouse dies during the dissolution of marriage proceedings prior to a termination of marital status. In that case, the family court has no jurisdiction to divide property following the death. [Estate of Blair (1988, 4th Dist) 199 Cal App 3d 161, 244 Cal Rptr 627]”

[California Civil Practice Family Law Litigation [certain citations omitted]]

Post Author: lawofficesofjamesrdickinson