Thursday, February 06, 2014

In Re Marriage of Martin (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 6, 2014)

I wanted to mention this case if only because of its caption.  Fortunately, it's not about my marriage.  A fortunate occurrence not only because its a dissolution action, but also because it's about what happens when the husband -- and that'd be me -- dies.  Yikes!

In this case, the trial judge bifurcates dissolution ("divorce") and other matters (e.g., property), and orally pronounces the parties divorced, but takes a couple of days to enter a written finding.  During the interim, the husband dies.  Does this death divest the court of jurisdiction?

No.  CCP 669 provides that “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,” and this provision applies to dissolution actions.  In the divorce context, this means that even though one of the parties dies, as long as the court has acted on one of the issues (as here -- dissolution), the matter may continue to be litigated.  You simply substitute a representative for the dead party and keep the thing going.

The downside for the husband is that he's dead.  But let's look at the bright side of things.  At least he got to know that he got divorced beforehand (he was the one who petitioned for dissolution).  And he gets out of having to attend future dissolution proceedings.  As well as having to personally pay his divorce lawyer.

Sneaky bastard.