For reality TV connoisseurs (including yours truly), the fact that Bethenny Frankel and her husband Jason Hoppy called it quits is old news. In fact, it’s about eight years old…so if that news were a kid, it would be in third grade by now. But, what is not old news and what probably knocked many a Skinnygirl over with a feather is Frankel’s recent revelation on Bravo (where else) that she and Hoppy are STILL legally married, a whopping seven years since filing for divorce.
The former Real Housewives of New York star/Skinnygirl mogul and Hoppy are both likely feeling the seven year itch…to get this notoriously ugly divorce over with. The Froppys (my celebrity name mashup for them) are getting divorced in New York. And while I have no insider knowledge of their divorce other than what I read on Page Six, I am guessing they are still legally married because they have not yet resolved all of their issues regarding custody, finances, or both.
For anyone contemplating or going through a divorce, no resolution after seven years is a nightmare scenario. Luckily, it is a very, very rare one in New Jersey. In fact, I personally have never seen or heard of a divorce lasting seven years in this state. Parties can safely assume that unless one of them has been on the cover of Forbes Magazine for earning 100 million dollars from a margarita empire, there is not going to be enough to fight about to delay a resolution for years on end. In fact, New Jersey courts try (the operative word being “try”) to have couples divorced within one year of filing. Of course, that does not always happen here or elsewhere, but a Froppy-esque divorce nightmare lasting the better part of a decade is NOT what litigants should anticipate when they get divorced in New Jersey.
But, why can’t the court just grant couples a divorce and then figure the rest out later? Ahh, if it were only that easy. In New Jersey, with rare exceptions, couples cannot get divorced until all of their issues are resolved. The only way for a couple with unresolved legal issues to get a divorce is for a court to allow the case to be “bifurcated”. Bifurcating the case means that the parties could get divorced and then some or all of the issues could be settled later. A procrastinator’s dream. Unfortunately for parties itching to be divorced, bifurcation of proceedings is the rare exception, not the rule. Our Court Rules allow for bifurcation only upon approval of the Presiding Family Judge of the vicinage (a fancy word for the county where the divorce is taking place…you can use it at parties to impress your friends) and only in extraordinary circumstances and for good cause shown.
So, let’s say you found the love of your life, and can’t wait to ditch the old ball and chain, but you still have unresolved issues with the old ball and chain. Sorry, you’re out of luck. New Jersey courts believe that if parties are granted a divorce without resolution of all of the issues, there is less incentive to finalize those other issues. So, not allowing bifurcation but for extraordinary circumstances is New Jersey Family Court’s carrot and stick.
Hopefully, the Froppys will be divorced soon. Until then, she is technically still a “housewife”. As Frankel said in the famous Bravo series (Season 11 for those who care), when life gives her limes, she makes margaritas. Hopefully, she will continue to make margaritas out of her divorce limes.
The Family Law department at Cooper Levenson is a full-service department that has many years of experience representing clients in matters of divorce, custody, support, domestic violence, prenuptial agreements, grandparent visitation, and other family law issues. We are here to help.