My spouse died during our Rhode Island divorce, what happens to the divorce proceeding?
February 13, 2019
QUESTION: I filed for divorce from my spouse. We each had lawyers. We settled the case. Our attorneys wrote the agreement up in a Property Settlement Agreement that we signed and submitted to the court at our divorce hearing. Just before the three (3) month waiting period ended for the Final Judgment of Divorce to enter, my spouse died. What happens to my divorce proceeding?
ANSWER: The currently governing case in Rhode Island is Centazzo v. Centazzo, 556 A.2d 560 (RI 1989). In Centazzo the RI Supreme Court ruled that divorce is a personal cause of action and therefore it terminates on the death of one of the parties. "Thus if an action for divorce is commenced and one of the spouses dies before the entry of the final judgment, the divorce action abates." Id. at 562.
In Centazzo the court ruled that the divorce action abated on June 25, 1986, the date Alice Centazzo died.
Therefore, upon the death of your spouse, the divorce proceeding ends on the date of death and you become a widow/widower. Unless issues remain to be addressed by the court in order to properly close the case, the case will usually closed by the court upon notice of the death of the spouse along with the death certificate.
It is always best to sit down for an advice session with a competent and experienced family law attorney in the state in which you have your issue before taking any kind of action.
For people within the State of Rhode Island, feel free to call me to set up your comprehensive low-cost flat fee legal advice session. Know what your options are before you act.
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