From start to finish, a divorce can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several years. That’s because the traditional divorce route includes: 

  1. Filing and serving a petition for dissolution of marriage
  2. Collecting and reviewing relevant financial information 
  3. Hearings on temporary financial matters and parenting issues while discovery is being conducted and terms of the divorce are being negotiated and/or mediated
  4. Pretrial conference with the judge
  5. Trial preparation
  6. Trial or settlement

In some rare instances, people are in a position where they must move on with their lives before all of these steps are completed. In order to finalize the divorce sooner, these are the considerations of this alternative path. 

The Option To Bifurcate Your Divorce 

Bifurcating your divorce allows you to divide your divorce into two parts: (1) first, it dissolves your marriage immediately, then (2) you resolve the issues regarding division of marital property, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), child support, allocation of prenatal responsibilities, and parenting time by negotiation, mediation, and/or litigation.

This alternative path is not always an option. In order for a divorce to be divided into two parts using bifurcation, there must be either an agreement by both parties or the court has to find that appropriate circumstances exist. 

“The court shall enter a judgment for dissolution that reserves any of these issues either upon (i) agreement of the parties, or (ii) motion of either party and a finding by the court that appropriate circumstances exist.” 750 ILCS 5/401(b)

Grounds for Divorce

It is important to note that the grounds for divorce in Illinois are now only no-fault grounds: irreconcilable differences creating an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The Illinois legislature abolished fault grounds in divorce with the new and improved Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2016. 

If you have special circumstances, like a health issue that may result in one spouse dying during the divorce process, or an ongoing investigation of undisclosed assets,  then you may consider filing a motion to bifurcate your Illinois divorce. It is rare, but under the right conditions it can be very helpful. 

Upon the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse has several rights under the Illinois Probate Act. These specific rights are not the subject of this particular post, but it is important to note that a person is not considered a surviving spouse for the purposes of these rights if the marriage ends by divorce or annulment. Bifurcation allows the parties to no longer be considered spouses in the event of the death of a spouse, while the parties are still resolving the issues regarding division of marital property, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), child support, allocation of prenatal responsibilities, and parenting time. 

The ordinary rule in the dissolution of marriage cases is that the action for divorce is nonsuited (the divorce case goes away) on the death of one of the parties. However, if a party is aware that their health issues may result in their death prior to finalizing the divorce process, a court may find that it is in the best interests of the parties to bifurcate the divorce and defer the division of property until some date after the entry of the decree. In this case, the court retains jurisdiction to divide the marital estate after a party’s death.

Is Bifurcation Right for You?

If you think you have a good reason to bifurcate your divorce, or if you have questions about getting started with the dissolution of your marriage, call Greenberg & Sinkovits at (312) 905-3013 for a free consultation. 

Our attorneys are ready to help you think outside of the box when it comes to the legal aspects of divorce.