The parties were going through a very contentious divorce. Father was a basketball player. There was a large financial estate to consider. There were two minor children.

Father filed a Motion to Bifurcate. He asked the court to grant the divorce first. Then the court could decide everything else later.

Courts are reluctant to bifurcate the case. The usual procedure is for the divorce to be granted when everything else is also resolved.

Father argued that it was in the best interest of the children and the family that bifurcation be granted. The case was dragging on. It was causing a lot of difficulty to the children. Both parents wanted sole custody.

He also argued that Mother kept changing attorneys. She had caused multiple delays.

The trial court granted Father’s request to bifurcate. All of the other issues would be dealt with in future proceedings. A custody trial had already been set. The financial issues were not going to be resolved anytime soon. This was due in part to the size of the marital estate. Mother appealed.

Mother argued to the Appellate Court that bifurcation can only happen under certain circumstances. She argued that none of those circumstances existed. The Appellate Court reviewed the Trial Court’s reasons for the bifurcation.

The law states that a court may only enter a judgment of dissolution while reserving resolution of the issues of child custody, child support, or maintenance upon agreement of the parties. Or a motion by either party and a finding that appropriate circumstances exist.

The Appellate Court said it was clear from the Trial Court’s comments. It felt that it was in the best interests of the parties’ children to have the parties divorced now. The Trial Court was not punishing Mother for repeatedly changing attorneys or delaying the proceedings.

This was the first case to bifurcate to benefit the emotional and mental well-being of the parties children.

The Court ultimately awarded sole custody of the two children to Father.

IRMO D.T.W., 2011 IL App (1st) 111225

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