The Court of Appeal in Orange County Ruled That Only Slight Evidence is Necessary to Bifurcate to the Issue of Marital Status

The divorce court erred when it denied husband’s request to bifurcate, despite husband’s sufficient supporting reasons and wife’s lack of compelling reasons for denial.

Wife filed for divorce in Orange County divorce court and requested sole child custody and spousal support. Husband’s divorce lawyer moved to bifurcate the issue of marital status from the remaining issues, so husband could untangle his finances from wife as soon as possible.  Husband’s divorce lawyer argued that divorce status could be quickly resolved, whereas, child custody and spousal support may take significantly more time due to discovery and the likelihood of a lengthy trial. Wife’s divorce lawyer opposed the motion to bifurcate but failed to show any prejudice to wife. The divorce court denied the motion to bifurcate and husband’s divorce lawyer appealed.

The Court of Appeal in Orange County determined the divorce court erred in denying the motion to bifurcate because (1) husband presented extensive reasons in support, and (2) wife presented no substantive reasons in opposition.  The Court of Appeal in Orange County held that only slight evidence is necessary to obtain bifurcation of marital status and that the opposing spouse has to the burden to present compelling reasons for denial.  

The Court of Appeal in Orange County also noted that the California Supreme Court and legislature favor bifurcation.  It is in the best interest of the public not to force two people to remain legally bound when the relationship has been found to be unworkable. Marital status should not be postponed simply because issues relating to property, child custody, and support are not ready to be decided.

Gionis v. Superior Court (1988) 202 Cal. App. 3d 786