What Happens if a Spouse Dies During a Texas Divorce?

Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally fraught process filled with unexpected events. While some civil lawsuits can survive the death of a party, Texas divorce cases do not operate in the same manner. Under case law, Texas divorce proceedings do not survive the death of a party, and the court will generally dismiss the case before a final judgment.

Recently, a woman challenged a court’s ruling dismissing her divorce petition upon her husband’s death. According to the court’s opinion, the woman and husband married in 1993, divorced in 2000 and remarried in 2019. In 2020 the woman filed for divorce, asking the court to divide their community estate. The husband answered the petition; however, his attorney filed a suggestion for death in March 2021. The woman asked the court to issue a “scire facias” to require the man’s children from a previous marriage to defend the divorce. The lower court found that the divorce petition was abated upon the husband’s death, and as such, the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the woman argues that no statute bars property division upon the death of a party to a divorce.

In Texas, courts have found that abatement upon the death of a party extends to property rights of either party. As such, the court found that the trial court did not err, and they affirmed the trial court’s order. In cases like this, a deceased spouse’s property will likely pass through the terms of their estate plan or intestate succession if no will exists.

This case highlights the importance of consulting with an attorney as soon as divorce becomes a viable course of action. An experienced divorce attorney can help those contemplating divorce ensure that they have all their affairs in order. While the death of a spouse during a divorce may seem unlikely, it is essential to plan in the event that a death occurs. Although it can be uncomfortable, planning for the death of either party is important. An attorney can help parties update their estate plans and ensure that their belongings pass to the party they intend.

Contact an Experienced Texas Divorce Attorney

If you face a divorce, the experienced Texas divorce attorneys at Guest & Gray can help you through this challenging process. The top-rated local legal team of attorneys at our firm prioritizes the best interests of our clients and allows them to make informed decisions about their cases. In addition to Texas divorce matters, our lawyers handle adoptions, custody and support modifications, equitable reimbursement, grandparent rights, wills and estates, and mediation in family law cases. We provide clients with respect, compassion, and zealously advocacy while representing them with integrity. Our firm has a history of securing favorable results for our clients and their families. Contact our office at 972-564-4644 to schedule a consultation with an attorney on our team.

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