Life can be full of complications. Imagine a couple going through a divorce and one of them dies before the separation could be formalized. In this article, we are discussing how a spouse’s death affect Florida divorce. This can raise a lot of questions in the surviving spouse’s mind. What happens to the legal case? Who will own the assets now? In case a temporary settlement was agreed upon but not completed, will it still hold? We will try to provide answers to all these questions and more. It will be pertinent to be aware of all possibilities before you hire any of the top divorce attorneys in Florida.
1. Immediate Stoppage Of Divorce Proceedings
The divorce proceedings will come to a halt the moment the court is notified of the death of one of the partners. Two people are required for completing a legal separation and when one of them is no more then there is no use of a legal case. It does not matter whether the couple had negotiated some terms or had even verbally agreed to some conditions. Since nothing was included in an order by a judge, the divorce cannot be considered as complete. The status of the surviving partner will also not be considered as a divorcee. For all accounts, the living partner will be called a widow or a widower, depending on the person’s gender.
2. Division Of Property
There will be no division of property once a spouse dies before the completion of the separation. This is because there are no two persons to share the assets. The surviving partner gets the ownership of all jointly-held property. People can also inherit their late spouse’s separate assets. However, this will be possible only if the deceased had not left a last will or testament which mentioned his/her intention to award the property to someone else. The living partner can also claim appliances, furniture, and furnishing which are at the dead person’s residence. The combined value of such objects must not exceed $20,000 and there must be no claims against them from a creditor of the deceased.
3. Custody Of Children
Generally, after the death of one of the parents, the other one gets sole physical and legal custody of the children. However, grandparents of the kids if barred by the parent from meeting the children can file a case to win visitation rights. The grandparents will have to prove that the surviving parent is unfit to take care of the minors or poses a danger to their security and well-being. The court will decide whether the visitation arrangement does not interfere with the parent-child relationship. In extreme cases, grandparents can even claim custody of the kids. Usually, people who have been primary caregivers of their grandchildren for a long period of time because the parent(s) were not available for any reason, file such cases.
4. Alimony And Child Support Responsibilities
In our article about how a spouse’s death affects Florida divorce, we will now discuss alimony and child support. Imagine a lady in Fort Pierce, through her divorce attorney, had negotiated a specific amount to be given as alimony and another specific sum as child support by her husband. The man dies before the court could pass an order and is no longer alive to fulfill his promises. What can the woman do now? As the surviving spouse, she gets the ownership of all the assets held jointly or independently by the deceased. She also gets rights to his pension fund. In some cases, the lady will also be eligible to receive death benefits or the life insurance payment from the late husband’s employer. All that money can be used to support herself as well as her children.
5. Repayment Of Marital Debts
The state of Florida uses the equitable distribution principle to divide assets as well as liabilities. An equitable division does not necessarily mean that the assets or debts will be shared equally. It is left to the discretion of a court of law to make a fair division. Just like the surviving partner assumed the ownership of assets after the death of the spouse, he/she will have to take responsibility for marital debts. Any bill which contains the name of the alive spouse will have to be paid by him/her. he/she will also have to fulfill any contracts that the couple had jointly signed. For instance, if the couples jointly took a home loan, then the living partner will have to take responsibility for repaying the amount.
6. Right To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim made in a court when the negligent or wrongful act of an entity caused the death of a person. Family members like spouse, parents, and children can file these lawsuits to recover damages. Let’s say a person dies in Port Saint Lucie when a truck jumped a traffic signal and crashed into his car. The man was in the middle of legally separating from his wife but the procedure was not complete. Since the divorce was not finalized, he and his wife were still considered as a married couple before his death. This means that his wife is now his widow and she can file a lawsuit to claim damages for the wrongful death of her husband.
It will now be clear to you how a spouse’s death affect Florida divorce. In case, one partner passes away before the separation was finalized the other becomes the natural inheritor of assets and debts.