By Atty. Kenneth Reyes
The decision to terminate one’s marriage typically brings to the forefront many issues all at once.Â Issues pertaining to property, support, and child custody need to be addressed in a divorce proceeding.Â In a long term marriage especially, these issues are often heavily litigated between the spouses, and can take a significant amount of time to resolve.
Frequently, a spouse would like to “move on,” and re-attain single status as soon as possible, but has a perception that to become divorced, issues concerning property, support, and child custody first need to be resolved.Â Many erroneously believe that getting a divorce prior to resolution of property, support, and custody issues is like putting the “carriage before the horse” – an impossibility.
Under the Family Code, a spouse can “bifurcate” the issue of marital status and terminate the marriage without having to wait until the issues pertaining to property, support, and child custody are resolved.
A judgment dissolving the marriage need not resolve all issues raised in the divorce petition.Â If there are issues set forth in the petition with regard to property, support, and custody, the Court may nonetheless separate the issue of dissolution of marriage status and grant an early trial on that issue (a “status only” judgment).Â Obtaining a “status only” judgment is most beneficial to those persons who want his or her marriage terminated as soon as possible.Â Through a “status only” judgment, a person is restored to single status more quickly, enabling a person to remarry even if other issues concerning the marriage have yet to be resolved.
It is important to note, however, that a judgment terminating the marriage itself also brings with it the consequence of terminating rights associated with marriage.Â To address the foregoing, the Court may impose conditions on a “status only” judgment, to preserve rights which normally would exist if an early dissolution of marriage status were not granted.
These conditions are contained in Family Code Section 2337. The Court may require a spouse seeking early dissolution of marriage status to do any of the following, all designed to protect the interests of the spouse who is not seeking early dissolution:Â 1) indemnify the other spouse for adverse tax consequences resulting from the early termination of marital status, 2) maintain the other spouse on existing health insurance, 3) indemnifying the other spouse from loss of rights to a probate homestead or probate family allowance, 4) indemnify the other spouse for loss of benefits under employee benefit plans, 5) joinder of an employee benefit plan, and 6) any other condition that the court determines is just and equitable.
With a “status only” judgment, the Court reserves jurisdiction to adjudicate any other issues concerning the marriage, including division of property, award of support, and custody issues.Â Accordingly, if you would like to obtain a “status only” judgment, and resolve any other issues pertaining to the marriage later, it is advised that you consult with an experienced attorney.
Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist.Â He was President of the Philippine American Bar Association.Â He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.Â He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration.Â He has extensive CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010.Â Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.Â Visit our website atÂ kenreyeslaw.com.