Can I Be Declared Single While Negotiating Divorce Terms?

Divorce can drag on for years – especially when the divorcing couple has a high net worth and children. There are many details to be sorted and each side can dig in their heels.

Celebrity Kim Kardashian West recently made news when she reportedly filed paperwork asking a judge to declare her single and to separate child custody and property issues from her marital status. She filed for divorce from the rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West in February 2021. They share four children.

A handful of states allow the separation of marital issues and marital status, which is called a bifurcated divorce.

Bifurcated Divorce in the New York Area

Deciding whether to divorce is often the easier decision. Complications and disputes then arise over the details of child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and asset/debt division. In jurisdictions where bifurcation is allowed, the spouses can be declared single first with the disputed details determined at a later date. Bifurcation does not affect marital issues beyond marital status.

Once declared legally single, the former spouses can do the following:

  • Remarry without having to wait for a final judgment on the disputed issues
  • File as “single” or “head of household” when filing income taxes
  • Have a maiden name restored

New York does not generally recognize bifurcated divorce. The Empire State wants all divorce issues to be decided before declaring the parties single. Separating the issues could eliminate the sense of urgency in resolving the economic issues and could lead to protracted proceedings and economic coercion. A New York divorce decree is the court’s final order that terminates a marriage.

Here’s an overview of how surrounding states view bifurcation:

  • Massachusetts: All issues of the divorce must be resolved before a divorce is granted.
  • New Jersey: Bifurcation is allowed in extremely unusual circumstances and is decided on a case-by-case basis by the judge.
  • Pennsylvania: Bifurcation may be allowed once divorce grounds have been established if compelling circumstances and evidence of sufficient economic protection are presented.
  • Vermont: The Granite State may allow bifurcation if most issues are resolved. Bifurcation lets a couple divorce with a partial settlement until the remaining issues are resolved.
  • Connecticut: Separating divorce issues is relatively uncommon but possible in Connecticut.

Some states have laws that prohibit bifurcation in all circumstances: Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas.

Working Toward a Final Divorce Decree

Across the country, either party (or both) in a divorce may want bifurcation because of economic complications in the marriage. Being declared single, while other matters are being negotiated, can help former spouses move on emotionally and otherwise in their lives.

Since bifurcation will be denied in New York except in extremely rare cases, a skilled attorney from Samuelson Hause Samuelson, LLP can help move the divorce forward. Our legal team has more than 100 years of collective experience in representing clients with complex divorce matters. We bring to bear our extensive knowledge and insight on every case we take.

As the couple negotiates (or litigates) final divorce terms, we can help get in place temporary orders for maintenance and child support. Temporary orders remain active until the divorce is complete and a final order is in place.

Litigation in court is not the only option for disputed divorce matters. We also offer the following methods to bring your marriage to a conclusion:

  • Divorce Mediation: Both spouses meet with a trained, neutral third party. We have attorneys trained to serve as a mediator. All divorce issues can be discussed and resolved in mediation. This option is best suited for couples who may disagree on divorce issues but can sit down together in an effort to settle their differences. The mediator guides productive discussion but does not provide legal advice. Mediation can be quicker and less costly than litigation.
  • Collaborate Divorce: Unlike in mediation, both parties hire attorneys to represent them in collaborative divorce. Both spouses sign a “no court” agreement, meaning they are committed to resolving their divorce without going to court. Meetings of the spouses and their attorneys continue until a settlement is reached.

Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce offer a means to negotiate in a less-adversarial way than going to court. Nothing removes all stress from divorce, but these methods can eliminate the attacks often seen in a litigated divorce. Mediation and collaboration are also better for affected children.

If you are considering divorce in New York, discuss your options with a lawyer at Samuelson Hause Samuelson, LLP. Schedule a free initial consultation by contacting us online or calling (516) 584-4685. We serve Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

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