Death is an unfortunate fact of life and something that can make already complex situations even more challenging to deal with. If you're the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent of your children pass away, you will likely be given custody of them. Although you may want to take time to grieve the loss of your ex, here are two things you need to do right away to avoid problems down the road.
File a Request to End Child Support
The death of the custodial parent doesn't automatically end a child support order, even you ultimately end up with the children. The order is actually attached to the children. Thus, if someone besides you end up getting custody of the kids, you would still be required to pay the new guardian the amount you were paying your ex until you are no longer legally required to do so (e.g. when the kids turn 18).
Thus, to eliminate any wage garnishments and/or your responsibility to pay, you need to let the court know the custodial parent has died and that you now have custody of the kids. The process varies depending on where you live. In general, though, you will need to furnish a copy of the death certificate and usually a petition to terminate child support. You can get the specific requirements by consulting with a family law attorney or looking up the procedures for your jurisdiction online.
It's important to file this paperwork as soon as possible; otherwise, you may build up an arrearage if you stop paying as ordered. Any future guardians or even your children could sue you for this back payment, and that's a legal problem you don't want to have.
Start Paying Down Arrearages
If you had fallen behind on your child support payments while your ex was alive, the first thing you need to know is that your obligation to pay the money owed doesn't go away upon his or her death. In some states, those arrearages become part of the deceased custodial parent's estate, and the estate administrator can sue you for the balance.
As noted previously, the kids themselves can sue you for that money when they become of age, and that money may be taken out of your own estate if you pass away without getting caught up.
Thus, even though you may get the support order canceled, continue making payments until your account balance reaches zero and the case closed. If the estate administrator does contact you about the arrearage, then be prepared to make arrangements to pay.
For assistance with handling child custody and support issues after the custodial parent in your case dies, contact a family law attorney, such as at Souders Law Group.Share
16 February 2018
Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.