While it does not occur frequently, in some cases, a party to a divorce action will pass away during the pendency of the case. In such instances, the courts will typically dismiss the case, as a petition for dissolution of a marriage becomes moot if one party is no longer living. However, the court handles the matter of enforcing a divorce decree differently if one of the former spouses passes away, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you wish to end your marriage, it is advisable to speak to a capable Florida divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that the husband and the wife obtained a divorce in 2008. Pursuant to their marital settlement agreement, which was incorporated into the final judgment of dissolution, the wife had the right to remain in the former marital home. The right was granted with the understanding that the wife would assume certain financial obligations that came along with the home. Shortly after the parties divorce, the husband passed away.
Allegedly, the husband’s estate then filed two motions: the first, asking to be substituted as a party in the divorce case, and the second, requesting that the court order the wife to leave the residence. The basis for the second motion was the allegation that the wife failed to uphold the financial obligations imposed by the marital settlement agreement, causing the home to fall into foreclosure. The trial court denied the motions, and the estate appealed.
Enforcement of Divorce Decrees After a Party’s Death
Under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may permit the substitution of a party in the event of a person’s death, as long as the claims in question are not extinguished by death. The appellate court explained that state law provides that the death of a spouse prior to the entry of a final judgment of dissolution requires termination and dismissal of the suit. If the final judgment was entered prior to a spouse’s death, however, the court retains jurisdiction over the matter and can resolve any remaining property disputes.
In the subject case, the appellate court noted that the husband died after the final judgment had been issued. Further, the trial court specifically retained the authority to enforce the final judgment and the marital settlement agreement that was incorporated into the judgment. As such, the appellate court found that there was no reason for the husband’s estate to file a new case in probate court, as suggested by the trial court. The appellate court, therefore, reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the case.
Meet with a Trusted Florida Attorney
Courts have the power to enforce family law decrees long after they are entered, and anyone seeking enforcement or modification of a divorce order should speak to a lawyer. If you want to dissolve your marriage or need assistance with another family law issue, the trusted Florida attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome available under the circumstances. You can contact us via our form online or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.