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What is a separate trial in a California divorce?

Californians generally believe that a divorce will either be categorized as one extreme or the other meaning that it will either be amicable with the parties negotiating and agreeing to part ways without rancor, or it will be rife with dispute and the parties are fighting over everything. However, in many cases, the parties can come to an agreement on certain issues, but not on others. In such a circumstance, a separate trial could be a preferable strategy. Knowing how a separate trial works and whether it is beneficial to the situation is key.

With a separate trial, it might be possible for the parties to resolve their issues and complete the entire case. Alternatively known as "bifurcation," this is defined as separating the legal issues. There are many different issues that can be handled through a separate trial. If there are children involved, it can handle child custody and visitation. A premarital agreement could have been agreed to before the marriage and its validity or invalidity could be in question. The date at which the couple was separated could be in dispute. The marital status -- whether the couple is divorcing or legally separating -- could be an issue.

The court can decide to allow a separate trial because there is a single issue that is hindering the case from being settled and everything else has been agreed to. The issue of date of separation might not seem important, but it can weigh heavily on property and debt. Having a specific date when the couple separated can be vital to the settling of the case. A judge is often reluctant to allow a separate trial. There is a form to fill out and the judge must be convinced it is in the best interests of everyone involved to allow it.

Oftentimes it is preferable for everyone to settle the case through mediation and negotiation. That could be effective with most issues. If there is a sticking point that is preventing the divorce from being completed and neither side is willing to budge, then a separate trial might be the way to go. Each divorce is unique, so whether a separate trial is needed will depend on the facts of the case.

Source: courts.ca.gov, "Contested Case -- Asking for a Separate Trial," accessed on April 24, 2018

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