How Death Impacts Divorce Actions
Ending a marriage can be a challenging and emotional process. When a party dies during divorce proceedings, it can further complicate matters. As such, it is important for people weighing whether to dissolve their marriage to consider how death impacts divorce actions, even if they and their spouse are in good health. If you have concerns about how legally ending your marriage or your spouse’s passing may impact your rights, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At McClure Law Group, our seasoned Dallas divorce attorneys are proficient at helping parties protect their interests in complicated divorce proceedings, and if we represent you, we will fight to help you seek just results.How Death Impacts Divorce Actions
In Texas, a divorce action typically abates upon the death of either party. This means that if one spouse passes away before the divorce is finalized, the divorce action is generally terminated, and the marriage is considered to have ended at the time of death. The surviving spouse will then have the legal status of a widow or widower. Notably, however, a court will not terminate a divorce action upon a party’s death if the court already rendered a full and final adjudication on all of the issues in the case.
The division of property is a crucial aspect of divorce proceedings, and death can affect how assets are distributed. In Texas, if a party dies before a divorce is finalized, their property and community property will become part of their estate and will be disbursed in accordance with the terms of their will, if they had one, or Texas’s intestacy laws.
In divorce cases involving children, the death of one parent can significantly impact child custody and support arrangements. Regardless of whether the court determined conservatorship and visitation rights prior to the parent’s death, the surviving parent will automatically gain full custody, assuming they are deemed fit by the court. In cases where the noncustodial parent dies, the custodial parent's custody rights remain unchanged.Spousal Support and Child Support Following the Death of a Party in Divorce Actions
The Texas Family Code (the Code) expressly dictates that the death of a parent does not terminate a child support obligation. In other words, if the party responsible for paying support passes away, the surviving parent or legal guardian of the children can still seek child support from the deceased parent's estate, typically through a claim against the estate as part of probate proceedings. If the party receiving support dies, the surviving parent still has an obligation to provide financial support for their child.
Unlike child support, spousal support ends with the death of either spouse. Specifically, the Code states that the obligation to pay future spousal support terminates when either party dies. Thus, the surviving spouse generally loses their right to seek such support. If the court issued a spousal support order, but the obligor spouse failed to pay the support owed prior to their death, however, the surviving spouse may have a claim against the deceased spouse's estate for any unpaid support.Talk to an Experienced Dallas Lawyer
Death can have significant implications for divorce actions in Texas. If you are in the process of ending your marriage, it is important to talk to an attorney about how death impacts divorce actions and what measures you can take to protect your interests. The experienced Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group have ample experience helping parties navigate the legal and emotional hurdles that can arise in divorce actions, and if we represent you, we will work tirelessly to help you seek the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. Our main office is located in Dallas, and we are available to meet clients for appointments at our Collin-County office in Plano. We frequently represent parties in divorce actions in Dallas, Rockwall, Richardson, Fort Worth, Frisco, Irving, McKinney, and Garland. We also aid people in family-law cases in cities in Dallas, Denton, Collin, Rockwall, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can contact us through our online form or by calling 214.692.8200 to set up a confidential meeting.