Death During the Divorce Process: What Happens Next?

family lawyerTragedy can strike at anytime, and divorce proceedings are no exception. In this scenario, what happens when someone’s spouse suddenly passes away? How does this impact asset division, custody issues, and more? 

Today, we’re looking at how the divorce process is impacted when one of the separating individuals passes away. Many can feel completely overwhelmed during the divorce process, and having the soon-to-be ex suddenly pass away can magnify this tenfold. Hopefully, this post serves as a useful starting place, and as always, we want to remind our readers that they are welcome to reach out to us at anytime by calling our office directly. 

How Death Impacts the Terms of Divorce

First and foremost, the divorce process automatically stops if a spouse dies. This means that, as far as child custody and property/asset division goes, the matters are settled as follows:

  • Child custody: Given that you are the child’s last surviving parent, you are automatically granted with physical and legal custody. Note that in CA, it is possible for grandparents to petition for custody or visitation rights, especially if they feel that it is in the child’s best interests.
  • Child support: Since your spouse is no longer able to fulfill his/her child support obligations, this means that any previous arrangements will no longer hold. However, you will likely take control of assets such as retirement accounts that can help bridge the gap.
  • Marital debts: If you had any joint debt, you become solely responsible for paying it off. Your name is on the contract or deed after all, so you’ll have to follow through and take care of marital debts whether you counted to do so with or without help from your spouse.
  • Community property: If your spouse passes away, you become sole owner of all community property. In addition, you are likely to inherit all of his/her separate property unless a valid will states otherwise. 

Speak with a Qualified Family Law Expert

As you can see, death during divorce has a significant impact on all facets of the proceedings. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult with a skilled divorce attorney in CA.  If you want to learn more about this, or about any matter that relates to child custody, divorce, or other family law issues in California, count on the elite team of legal experts at DiJulio Law Group.

Call our experienced family law attorneys today! Book a free initial consultation by calling us at (415) 564-2776.