In a recent California court case (case number B250349), the court ruled that the divorce process can continue when one spouse dies as long as the court decided to dissolve the marriage and reserve jurisdiction over all other matters before the spouse’s death. A court’s ruling made after a spouse’s death can stand as the final judgment in a divorce case.
Death During Divorce – Alejandro and Thelma Martin
The decision stems from the divorce case of Alejandro and Thelma Martin. After three years of marriage, the Martins separated and Alejandro petitioned for dissolution of marriage, requesting that the trial court enter a judgment dissolving the marriage and reserve jurisdiction over all other issues.
At a hearing, the court granted a judgment of dissolution of marriage and reserved jurisdiction over all other issues. Two weeks later, Alejandro passed away. Three days after Alejandro’s death, the court entered a written judgment of dissolution.
Alejandro’s attorney requested that the trial court amend the written judgment of dissolution to a date written before Alejandro’s death, as the judgment was granted while Alejandro was alive. The court initially denied the request because there was no personal representative to represent Alejandro. Alejandro’s daughter Sara Frederick was then appointed her father’s personal representative. The court granted Frederick’s request to have the written dissolution of marriage amended to be dated when the dissolution was initially granted, which was before Alejandro’s death.
At a status and trial hearing a few months later, the trial court announced it was vacating its judgment on the ground that it had lacked jurisdiction when the judgment was entered. According to the court, it lost jurisdiction over the matter when Alejandro passed away.
Frederick filed a petition for the court to restore its judgment. The appeals court granted Frederick’s petition, citing the court’s decision to dissolve the marriage and reserve jurisdiction over all other matters before Alejandro’s death. Therefore, the court maintained its authority over the case.
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 669 states, “If a party dies after trial and submission of the case to a judge sitting without a jury for decision or after a verdict upon any issue of fact, and before judgment, the court may nevertheless render judgment thereon.” This section applies to divorce cases.
Attorneys for both spouses had to go through many steps during the divorce process, which can seem overwhelming and confusing. If you are going through a divorce or are considering a divorce, it is important to have an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney with you every step of the way to keep you informed and help you make the best legal decisions.
Call the Southern California Divorce Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you are going through a divorce, it is critical that you speak to an experienced family law attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience handling divorce cases in Southern California. Our attorneys can help you get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California family law attorney near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 749-7428 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.