Reasons for Delaying Entry of Judgment

Why Would Anyone Delay Their Official Divorce Date?

Yahoo News reported that on Thursday, February 10, 2011, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hank Goldberg finalized Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller Sheen’s divorce, however, the Sheen’s will not be officially divorced (i.e., legally single) until May 2, 2011. AP reported on February 15, 2011, that Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman finalized their divorce but the judgment will not become official until April 15, 2011.

In California, there is statutory six-month waiting period before a divorce judgment can be final for the purpose of terminating a marital relationship. California Family Code Section 2339. In both cases, the delay is because the six-month waiting period has not expired. Sheen filed for divorce in November, thus their marriage cannot be dissolved until May. Aguilera filed for divorce in October, thus her marriage cannot be dissolved until April.

For many of our San Diego clients, the day they become legally single cannot come quickly enough. However, the six-month statutory waiting period is not the only reason soon-to-be-divorced couples may decide to delay their official divorce date. Two other common reasons are health insurance and tax planning purposes.

Health insurance may come into play when one spouse has great insurance through his or her employment. After a divorce is granted, most health insurance plans do not allow a employee spouse to cover their former spouse. Although the non-covered spouse may apply for COBRA coverage, it is often more expensive than the cost of the insurance coverage to the employee spouse.

For example, let’s assume that: (1) the non-covered spouse has an upcoming surgery with rehabilitation that will take nine months; (2) the cost of insurance is $200 per month for the employee spouse, and (3) the cost of COBRA will be $1,200/mo for the non-covered spouse. The parties’ may decide to delay entry of judgment for nine months until the non-covered spouses rehabilitation has ended, thus saving the non-covered spouse $10,800. In exchange for delaying the divorce and keeping the non-covered spouse on the insurance, the employee spouse may have negotiated a reduction of spousal support for the nine month period he or she is providing the health insurance.

Another scenario is if one spouse just started a new job and has a three month waiting period before their new health insurance coverage begins. The parties’ may delay the date of their divorce for three months until the party’s new insurance begins.

With regard to tax planning purposes, sometimes the parties’ accountant will recommend they delay their divorce date until after December 31st, especially if there are significant tax benefits to each party.