Your status as ‘married,’ ‘divorced,’ or ‘single’ in California divorce

It’s tax season, so your status may be a question you’re wondering…

In California, you are either single or married. If you’re single, you can be never married, widowed, or divorced.

After you file for divorce, you are still married until you have a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This can happen no earlier than six months and one day after the Respondent is served with the Petition. Sometimes, divorce cases are resolved very quickly, and the parties submit their Judgment paperwork far earlier than the six month waiting period. In that case, the Judgment comes back with a date of divorce in the future. This is helpful for planning divorce parties.

Very frequently, however, divorce cases last far beyond the six month period. When that happens, one or both of the parties sometimes want to dissolve their status and become divorced. The case can continue, but the parties themselves will become single as opposed to married to each other. This is often an emotional decision, but sometimes there are practical reasons, such as when one spouse wants to remarry or wishes to terminate status for tax reasons.

Dissolving status before the rest of the case is over is called a bifurcation. You can ask the court to bifurcate your status, but you first have to ensure that certain requirements are met. First, both parties have to be taken care of for health insurance reasons. Second, you have to complete your Declarations of Disclosure (which will be the subject of a posting coming soon). Finally, you have to join any pensions of the parties. These are the main considerations, in addition to the six month waiting period.

The IRS only cares with whether you were formally divorced (with a filed divorce Judgment) on December 31 of the prior year (2015), so that’s how you figure your status for tax purposes.