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Bifurcation is the act of dividing a trial into two parts for various reasons like convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize. Frequently, civil cases are bifurcated into separate liability and damages proceedings. Criminal trials are also often bifurcated into guilt and sentencing phases, especially capital cases.
USCS Fed Rules Civ Proc R 42 ( b) provides for bifurcation. It says “For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, cross claims, counterclaims, or third-party claims. When ordering a separate trial, the court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial.”
In family law, bifurcation occurs when the divorce is determined separately from the related issues of custody and visitation, child support, alimony, and property division.
In some states, a defendant who has raised the defense of mental disease or defect will automatically create a bifurcated trial. In the first stage of the trial, both sides present evidence and testimony designed to establish that the defendant is either guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is guilty, the issue of mental disease is presented.