NYC Background

Divorce can cause people to come under serious pressure. Tragically, this pressure sometimes reaches a boiling point, causing spouses to take their own lives. It is important to understand that if you are considering suicide, there is always another option. As they say, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But what happens when a spouse commits suicide during the divorce proceeding? What kind of legal and financial issues can this create?

Suicide During Divorce is More Common than You Might Think

Divorce rates have been increasing as of late, with white males much more likely to commit suicide than any other segment of the population. Suicide often occurs during divorces. For example, Kate Spade killed herself after her husband asked for a divorce in 2018. Also in 2018, an airman stationed at a base in Washington carried out a murder-suicide, killing his wife and two small children after becoming “despondent” about a pending divorce. More recently, actress Lindsay Mendez reached a divorce settlement with her ex after accusing him of threatening a murder-suicide. 

Mendez is known for her work in All Rise. The fact that she claimed her husband had threatened a murder-suicide probably allowed her to win primary custody of her children. This is one example of how suicide can affect divorce – even if it is merely “threatened” and not carried out. Suicide is a sign of mental health problems, and parents with obvious mental health issues often struggle to win custody in court. 

How Suicide Can Affect the Finances of a Divorce

But what about the financial aspects of a divorce? One of the most common misconceptions is that if you commit suicide, your life insurance policy will not cover your family. Generally speaking, your family only loses coverage if you commit suicide within two years of establishing your life insurance policy. That said, each policy is different, and you’ll need to check the “suicide clause” or “suicide provision” to determine what exactly happens in this scenario. 

But the real financial issues involve the family estate. The nature of the death is not really significant. It is rather the fact that the spouse died during the divorce proceedings that matters most. This can create a legal conundrum where courts have to figure out whether the probate process should occur first or whether the divorce settlement should continue. It is almost always the probate court that takes precedence, which means spouses waiting for a settlement can lose everything they would have been entitled to if their spouse had finalized the divorce process. 

On the other hand, a spouse may also walk away with more assets than they would have received if their ex had survived the proceedings. This occurs when a spouse forgets to remove their ex as a beneficiary, and this can cause the surviving spouse to inherit the entire family estate – instead of the roughly 50% they would have received via a divorce settlement.