A Rare Equitable Distribution Property Division After the Death of the Husband

New York Husband and Wife are having an unusual divorce.

It consists not of one case, but of two separate but related cases. Husband filed one case and Wife filed the other.

The Husband’s case was for divorce, but its scope was limited. The Wife’s case was for equitable distribution or property division.

(In Florida, this is known as a bifurcated divorce.)

The New York family court heard the entire divorce case, and issued an oral ruling granting Husband a divorce. The final judgment “on paper” was not issued at that time, however.

The New York family court went on to hear the equitable distribution case. After the trial was over but before the family court judge had ruled, Husband committed suicide.

Typically, an “unfinished” divorce grinds to a permanent halt upon the death of either one of the spouses.

In this divorce though, the Wife moved to substitute the personal representative of Husband’s estate in lieu of Husband … and continue with the cases.

The trial court granted Wife’s motion to substitute.

On appeal, the intermediate level appellate court upheld the family court’s ruling at trial.

Since the family court had already orally granted Husband his divorce, the appellate court did not view the divorce per se “unfinished” just because the paper judgment had not yet been entered.

And since the property division case was filed and begun before Husband’s death and Husband’s divorce was already granted before Husband’s death, the rights to property division in accordance with the divorce had already vested.