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What if My Spouse Dies During the Divorce Process?


There are often surprises that pop up during the divorce process. However, no one ever expects that one of those surprises will involve one of the spouses passing away before the divorce is finalized. A tragedy like that obviously changes everything, and for those in that unlikely situation, understanding what to do in the aftermath of the tragedy could have a huge impact on how their life unfolds moving forward.

What Happens if My Spouse Dies Before Our Divorce Is Finalized?

In most instances, a spouse dying during the divorce process is unthinkable. However, it can happen. Here’s how events could play out if your spouse dies in the middle of your divorce:

  • Does the divorce process continue? No, the divorce proceedings do not continue if one of the spouses dies. Instead, the surviving spouse will become a widow or widower and the divorce case will be dismissed.
  • How is property division handled? In California, marital property (or community property) is often divided 50/50 between divorcing spouses. If one spouse dies before the divorce is final, the surviving spouse generally is awarded control of all the community property. However, there are factors that can impact that decision. For instance, if the spouse that died has a will that has a plan for some of the marital property, that can impact what happens with the property as well.
  • What about marital debt? Unfortunately, if your spouse dies during your divorce, you will become solely responsible for their debts.
  • Do I automatically have sole custody of our children? In most cases, if your spouse dies during your divorce, you will be awarded sole custody of your kids. However, your children’s grandparents can seek visitation rights. In addition, if your children’s grandparents believe they can prove you’re an unfit parent, they can seek custody.

Speak with Our Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Fresno About Your Situation Today

No matter what twists and turns your divorce takes, our dedicated divorce attorneys at Arnold Law Group, APC will be there for you. Our legal team has over 30 years of collective experience. We’ve just about seen it all, and we won’t flinch when it comes time to protect your legal rights and secure the most favorable outcome possible for your situation.

Call us at (559) 900-1263 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation with our experienced divorce attorneys in Fresno.

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