The death of a spouse is one of the most challenging events a person can endure. If the death occurs while the spouses are divorcing, it can be even more challenging, especially if there are young children in the family.

One of the most difficult aspects of a divorce are the parties’ emotions. During the various phases of a divorce, people often feel sad, hurt, and angry. The stress surrounding a divorce may cause some people to say hurtful things to their soon-to-be former spouse. Especially in contentious divorce matters, wishing your spouse would simply go away is common.

Sometimes during a divorce proceeding, one of the spouses dies due to an unforeseen illness, suicide, or an accident. When one of the spouses dies during divorce proceedings, what happens to the divorce? More importantly, what is the surviving spouse’s legal status if his or her spouse dies during a pending divorce proceeding?

When people seek a divorce, three main issues are almost always decided by the court. They are a formal declaration that the marriage has ended legally, the distribution of marital property, and the determination on child custody and visitation. There are other issues, as well, such as alimony and payment of medical expenses. This post will focus on the three main issues stated above. If you would like to discuss another divorce issue not mentioned here, contact the Lavonia, Georgia’s Divorce Lawyers to schedule an initial consultation.

Divorce Proceedings

When one party dies during the pendency of the divorce action, meaning a final judgment of divorce has not been issued by the court, the divorce proceeding stops and is withdrawn. A divorce proceeding cannot continue if one of the spouses dies before the final judgment of divorce is granted. Legally, the couple remains married and the surviving spouse’s status is that of widow or widower.

Division of Marital Property

Similarly, the division of marital property (dividing assets and liabilities) stops. The surviving spouse is entitled to all the marital property pursuant to a will or Georgia’s intestacy laws if the deceased spouse dies without a will. The surviving spouse is also responsible for any of the couples remaining financial liabilities.

Child Custody and Child Support

Likewise, any child custody orders terminate, and any temporary child support orders are vacated because one of the parents has died. The surviving spouse obtains sole custody of any of the children born of the marriage. Visitation with the deceased spouse’s family is not automatic and subject to the surviving spouse’s consent.

Lastly, because the spouse died, there is no award for child support. Minor children of the marriage may have benefits available to them through the Social Security Administration, the deceased parent’s life insurance policy, pension, will, or through Georgia’s intestacy laws.

Georgia Family Law Questions?

If you are contemplating filing for divorce and wish to learn about your rights and responsibilities during and after a divorce, contact the Berelc Law Office for more information and to schedule a consultation. The Lavonia, Georgia Divorce Lawyers have experience in contested and uncontested divorce matters as well as family law matters like child support and child visitation, including modifications of such orders, if eligible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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