Q&As

What happens if one spouse dies during divorce proceedings, ie before decree absolute has been pronounced? How will this impact on any financial claims the surviving spouse may have?

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Produced in partnership with Chris Bryden of 4 King’s Bench Walk
Published on LexisPSL on 04/05/2018

The following Family Q&A produced in partnership with Chris Bryden of 4 King’s Bench Walk provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What happens if one spouse dies during divorce proceedings, ie before decree absolute has been pronounced? How will this impact on any financial claims the surviving spouse may have?

The court has significant powers upon the granting of a decree of divorce to divide up the matrimonial assets. These powers are contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) and enable to the court to make orders for maintenance, property adjustment orders, lump sum orders and pension sharing orders.

If a spouse dies prior to the pronouncement of decree absolute, the court will not be able to bring the marriage to an end and the surviving spouse is a widow or widower. As decree absolute cannot as a result be pronounced, the court is unable to make an order for financial remedies. In Sugden v Sugden, Denning LJ confirmed that ancillary relief was not a claim that subsisted against the personal representatives of the estate unless an order had already been made and was effective. As a final order cannot be effective until decree absolute it follows that the other spouse is not able to pursue a financial remedy claim. See also McMinn v McMinn (Ancillary Relief: Death of Party to Proceedings

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