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What Happens if Your Spouse Dies in the Middle of a Divorce?

It happens sometimes that when two spouses are in the middle of settling their estate, one of them dies. In these cases, the courts sometimes rule that if there are no longer two parties to the divorce, then the court no longer has jurisdiction over the matter. For the living spouse, this can create a boatload of problems. In one case, a wife who was asking for a quitclaim from her husband regarding the family home was unable to secure one before her husband passed. The family court ruled that it no longer had jurisdiction over the matter.

A bit of background: The wife had asked the husband to divest his interest in the family home and the husband had agreed, but not before a bit of balking. Toward the end of his life he stalled the process and ended up dying before the quitclaim could be processed. As a result, the family court divested their interest in the case and the wife was left with an encumbered family home. 

She appealed the court’s decision and the appeals court ruled that the family court could preside over the transfer of property. But she had to go an extra step to resolve the matter. In this article, we will discuss some of the potential pitfalls that could hold up your divorce proceedings.

How Long Does a Divorce Take?

Divorces can take anywhere from a few months to the rest of your life. Indeed, some spouses will spend a decade or more battling with the other spouse over custody matters. Issues related to property can also become complex. However, the wife’s petition to pursue the quitclaim was eventually granted and there was good legal precedent for allowing the petition to move forward.

In another case, a wife pursued a restraining order against her husband to freeze assets in his retirement account so that he could not spend, transfer, or otherwise prevent his wife from accessing funds to which she was entitled. The next day, the husband died. The matter went to an appeals court that ruled that since the action had already been put into place, the family court still retained jurisdiction over the matter even though the spouse was technically dead. In other words, since the process had already begun when the spouse was alive, the spouse’s death did not prevent the court from deciding on the property matter. 

Had the matter not been addressed at the trial court, the property could have ended up becoming a part of the estate of the recently-deceased spouse and the assets would have been sent to probate further encumbering them. Then heirs may have battled with the former spouse for control of the property. It would have made the wife’s life much more difficult.

Talk to an Indiana Divorce and Family Law Attorney Today

Chris Arrington represents the interests of those seeking a divorce in Avon, Indiana. Call today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your next moves immediately. 

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