The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled marriages in the state can’t be ended without all the property involved being divided up. The case involved Susan and Ronald Thatcher, who were married in 1984.
Susan was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2013 and filed to end the 29-year marriage, saying their relationship had broken down. The two had been living apart and Susan said it was “highly unlikely” that she would survive her condition for a trial on the dissolution of their assets.
Ronald resisted the ending the marriage. He offered to participate in an expedited settlement conference and trial within two weeks. Ronald argued his rights would be prejudiced otherwise and complicate resolution of the property issues.
The Linn County District Court ruled in favor of Susan one day before her death, and ordered the property to be divided at a later date. The ruling was upheld on appeal. The Iowa Supreme Court says Iowa law does not directly address the issue known as bifurcation. The court says there are some advantages to a bifurcated divorce, but also many disadvantages in separating the property of those involved.
The court ruling goes on to say the Iowa legislature is the appropriate body to make the policy judgments on whether to allow bifurcated divorces and under what conditions. The Supreme Court vacated the appeals ruling and reversed the district court ruling. That means the two were married at the time of Susan’s death. The issue now goes to the probate court to decide how the property is divided.
Here’s the full ruling: Divorce Bifurcation ruling PDF