Understanding Divorce Procedures After Spouse Death

As unfortunate as it may be, many divorce proceedings are naturally uncomfortable and may contain some broad negatives. Another possible even that only adds to the potential sadness in play during a divorce proceeding: If one spouse or the other passes during divorce proceedings, whether due to natural causes, disease, an accident or some other reason.

At the offices of Day, Shell & Liljenquist, our divorce attorneys are here to help you deal with every uncomfortable section of a potential divorce, including these kinds of horrible events if they do take place. And while appropriate time must be given for grieving the departed – spouses being divorced may not get along perfectly, of course, but they still often care for each other and will be strongly affected by this passing – it’s also important to understand what happens to the case in question. Here’s some important information in case this happens to you. 

divorce after spouse death

Divorce Proceedings and Death

For starters, you should be aware that divorce proceedings cease if one spouse or the other dies. Unless the divorce has already reached the point where it was finalized before this death, the process will terminate – even if certain terms have already been negotiated and agreed upon. These terms cannot be enforced until a judge issues what’s called a Notice of Entry of Judgement, which will actually consider you a widow or widower.

So what happens to the various assets that still need to be split up, plus child custody and care areas? Our next several sections will dig into this.

Marital Debts

If your spouse in a current divorce case dies during the proceedings, you will become fully responsibly for all marital debts you held together. Any agreement or deed that has your name on it will hold you liable.

Child Custody

When you become the sole remaining parent of any children present in the case, you will generally also assume full physical and legal custody. There are exceptions here in some states: Grandparents may be allowed to petition the court and ask for visitation rights, or even for custody if they can prove safety or child care will be lacking with a given parent.

Child Support and Alimony

If you had been receiving alimony or child support from your spouse before their death, this obviously will not continue after they pass. However, realize that in most cases, you will assume their assets and retirement funds, plus potentially a death benefit or life insurance payout. These funds often cover the financial support you would have otherwise received.

Property Allocation

Finally, one of the most important areas here refers back to property allocation. If a spouse dies during a divorce, the other spouse usually assumes ownership of all communal property held by the couple. They may also inherit other property, though this will not be the case if the departed had a will that directed solely-owned property or assets to someone else.

For more on what happens if one spouse or the other dies during divorce proceedings, or to learn about any of our family law or estate planning services, speak to the staff at the offices of Day, Shell & Liljenquist today. 

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Murray, UT 84107

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