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Family Lawyer Describes the Bifurcated Divorce Process

By Lindsay C. Hanifan, Esquire – Family Lawyer

In most divorce cases in Pennsylvania, the court will not enter a divorce decree until all of the economic issues have been decided. This means that most spouses will need to either enter into an agreement regarding the division of marital property and alimony, or go to a trial and have the court enter an order regarding those issues, before they can be officially divorced. That process can take as little as ninety days, but often takes much longer, sometimes even years.

Therefore, the Pennsylvania Divorce Code provides for a bifurcated divorce in limited circumstances. A bifurcated divorce is when a divorce decree is entered before the resolution of the economic issues (division of property, support, alimony, counsel fees, etc.). The court will enter a bifurcated divorce decree with the consent of both spouses. But if the spouses do not agree to a bifurcated divorce, then the spouse that wants the bifurcated divorce must meet certain procedural guidelines and demonstrate certain facts.

First, the spouse that wants the bifurcated divorce must be able to show that grounds for divorce have been established. In the case of a fault-based divorce, the court must have entered an order finding that there was adultery, abandonment, cruel and barbarous treatment, etc. In the case of a no-fault divorce, the marriage must be “irretrievably broken.” A marriage is deemed to be irretrievably broken if at least ninety days have elapsed since the divorce complaint was filed and served and both parties have signed an Affidavit of Consent, or one spouse has filed an affidavit stating that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least two years and the other spouse did not object within twenty days.

Second, if grounds for divorce have been established, then the spouse that wants a bifurcated divorce must demonstrate that compelling circumstances exist for the entry of the divorce decree; and that sufficient economic protections have been provided for the other spouse during the pendency of the disposition of the economic matters. To initiate this inquiry, the spouse who wants the bifurcated divorce needs to file a petition with the court, and the court would then scheduling a hearing on the issue.

A family lawyer at Vetrano|Vetrano & Feinman can help you determine whether you could successfully pursue a bifurcated divorce, or help you defend against bifurcation if your spouse is pursuing it. Contact us today by calling (610)-265-4441.

About Lindsay C. Hanifan: Lindsay C. Hanifan, Esq. is an associate attorney at Vetrano|Vetrano & Feinman LLC. She has chosen to limit her practice entirely to family law matters, including divorce, custody, and support. In addition to serving as the Treasurer of the Montgomery Bar Association’s Young Lawyers’ Section, she is an active member of the Montgomery Bar Association’s Family Law Section, serving as the current chair for the Toby L. Dickman Seminar Committee. Lindsay C. Hanifan, Esq. has also been appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem and Child Advocate in a number of cases in Montgomery and Chester Counties, representing children in custody and abuse case.

More about Vetrano|Vetrano & Feinman LLC: Vetrano|Vetrano & Feinman LLC maintains that a “good divorce is not impossible.” What is necessary in creating a healthy family environment after a divorce is understanding the needs of each family member caught in the middle. In addition, in order to generate a smoother transition from complicated situations like divorce, it is important to utilize the services of a committed family lawyer. Montgomery County’s Vetrano lawyers recognize that divorce is a difficult process, which is why each lawyer empathizes with the turmoil their clients might be facing.