Johnny Knoxville of MTV’s Jackass (and the movies of the same name) officially got divorced late last week in Los Angeles. Knoxville, whose real name is Philip John Clapp, originally filed for divorce from his wife of 11 years, Melanie Clapp, last summer. The couple has a 12 year old daughter, Madison. Knoxville and his wife have apparently been separated since July, 2006.
Last week’s divorce judgment was the result of a bifurcation of the case. Bifurcation occurs when the entire divorce case is not decided at the same time. Certain matters can be split from the rest of the case and decided at a later date. In the Knoxville case, Knoxville and his wife were granted a divorce only, meaning each is now legally single. However, all matters relating to custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and property distribution are still pending and will be decided later (in other words, all of the difficult matters are still left). In his initial divorce filing, Knoxville sought joint legal custody and joint physical custody of their daughter. He also acknowledged that he would have to pay spousal support. It is unclear exactly why Knoxville and his wife decided to bifurcate their divorce.
In the states that allow it (some states such as New York, Texas and Michigan do not generally allow bifurcation), a case can be bifurcated in several different ways. Probably the most common bifurcation is to separate the actual divorce or change in marital status from the child-related and economic matters. Two of the most common reasons for this type of bifurcation are to allow one or both spouses to remarry and to allow one or both spouses to take advantage of a single tax filing status. Bifurcation can also be used as a psychological tool – granting the divorce itself can help some spouses move on emotionally and facilitate settlement. Sometimes, it is just used because the financial or custody aspects of the case are so complicated that full investigation and trial of the issues will take many months or even years.
A case could also be bifurcated in situations where the husband and wife agree on custody, visitation and support but not property distribution – or vice versa. The divorce can be granted and visitation ordered and then a trial can be held later to decide on property division and support.
Knoxville is represented by Laura Wasser at Wasser, Cooperman and Carter, a high-profile family law firm in Los Angeles. Laura Wasser and the Wasser firm have represented many Hollywood celebrities in their divorce and custody cases. Most recently. Laura Wasser was one of Britney Spears’ attorneys in her pending custody case. Wasser and Spears parted company last fall.