QUESTION:Can my divorce be finalized even though we haven’t completed separated all of our assets we still have a house on the market that hasn’t sold as yet?

You and your spouse have decided to divorce. So far, the process has been amicable. You’ve agreed on child custody, support, and property division. There are just a few things that are keeping the divorce from being final. You haven’t completely divided your investments and you are waiting for your home to sell.  You are anxious to move on, so you want to know, “Do I really have to stay married until all our assets are separated?”

No, you don’t. You and your spouse can divorce if you can agree in writing about how the assets and proceeds from the sale of the house will be divided. This agreement will become a binding part of the divorce settlement.

But, what if you can’t agree?

In this case, you have the option of bifurcation. Bifurcation is usually requested when one spouse wants to remarry, but it is taking too long to resolve issues such as custody, child visitation, alimony and division of property. States that permit bifurcation allow the ending of the marriage to be treated separately from the unresolved issues.  Courts do not usually grant requests for bifurcation unless both spouses consent.  In Pennsylvania, both parties do not have to consent, but a judge must weigh the advantages and disadvantages to each party before granting a bifurcation.

Bifurcation cannot be granted before the 90-day waiting period for a divorce in Pennsylvania. However, bifurcation can prevent a contentious divorce from dragging on for years while couples argue about every detail. The court retains the power to intervene if the spouses cannot work out the remaining issues in a timely manner.

The process of bifurcation of marital status requires the filing of legal documents. You should consult with an attorney before requesting a bifurcation because each state has unique restrictions that may affect the process. An experienced divorced attorney will let you know if you qualify for a bifurcation.

Do you have questions about equitable property distribution, divorce settlements, or bifurcation? Contact Petrelli Previtera at 215-523-6900.