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What Happens if a Spouse Dies During a Divorce Trial in New Jersey?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2023 | Divorce

Most divorces are handled in a somewhat straightforward manner – even if there are certain issues that cause delays and problems. But some issues are so serious that they stump even the highest courts in New Jersey – and the death of a spouse during a divorce trial is a prime example of this. But what exactly happens when a spouse dies during a divorce trial, and how might this affect the outcome of your separation?

Carr vs. Carr

One of the most notable examples of this situation was Carr v. Carr in 1990. In this case, a husband died while his divorce proceedings were pending. In his will, he had left his entire estate to his children from a prior marriage. This left the wife with few options, as she was set to receive alimony, property division, and other benefits as part of the divorce. Family courts in New Jersey were initially unsure of how to deal with the matter, and they could not decide whether the wife was entitled to any of the marital assets.

Eventually, the Supreme Court held that New Jersey’s equitable distribution statute did not permit the wife to receive any marital assets. This was because the divorce had never been finalized. Eventually, however, the Court managed to permit the wife to receive some level of compensation – although the court came to the conclusion that neither the equitable distribution statute nor the Probate Code allowed the wife to receive any assets and compared her situation to being “trapped in a black hole.”

This case shows how complicated situations can become when spouses pass away during divorce proceedings. The end result was that the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that divorce proceedings must end when a spouse dies.

The Will Plays an Important Role

In these situations, the deceased spouse’s will plays an important role in determining the final decision. In 2018, this issue came up during Acosta-Santana v. Santana. In this case, it was determined that the probate always distributes the assets first. This made a major difference in the outcome of the divorce, as the husband had not yet removed his ex-wife from his will. The end result was that the wife received far more than she normally would have received in a normal divorce settlement. This should serve as a cautionary tale for those who do not remove their spouses from their wills quickly after the relationship ends.

Where Can I Find a Divorce Attorney in New Jersey?

If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced divorce attorney in New Jersey, look no further than Giro, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Over the years, we have assisted numerous divorcing spouses in the Garden State, and we know that unforeseeable issues can sometimes throw a wrench in your plan. The death of a spouse can certainly cause problems, but the situation is far from unsalvageable. With our help, you can strive for a positive outcome no matter what. Book your consultation today.