By Casandra L. Ringlespaugh, Cohen & Malad LLP
Several issues can arise upon the death of a party to a final divorce decree, especially when minor children are involved. Indiana law is clear that the dissolution trial court who issued the divorce decree retains jurisdiction over the parties for future matters, with few exceptions.
One such exception is that upon the demise of one of the principle parties of a divorce action, the trial Court typically loses jurisdiction, and thus no longer has authority to issue any orders as it relates to the prior marital property, provisions yet to be enforced per the final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage or as to modifications of custody, child support or other child related matters regarding the children of the parties.
While the death of a parent is extremely traumatic for any child, it is particularly difficult on a child when the parent that passed away was the primary physical custodian and has been considered to have the most serious implications for medical, psychiatric, and behavioral sequelae in children. This is further complicated if the surviving parent was not highly involved in the child’s life, or the surviving parent’s fitness is questioned regarding custody by the third parties. As a result, the child is left wondering where they will go and who they will live with until the Court can decide.
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