The death of either parent can make it challenging to know what happens in regards to child support payments. Whether the deceased is the custodial or non-custodial parent will determine what steps you should take next.
This can be a difficult situation and each family's case is going to be different. No matter your specific circumstance, it is best to consult an attorney in your area to seek specific advice.
In general, though, there are ways to continue receiving child support payments after one parent dies.
Death of a Non-Custodial Parent
The death of the non-custodial parent may leave the custodial parent wondering how they will be able to continue to support their children. Here are a few pertinent questions to help when determining how to receive continuing support.
Does the parent have a substantial life insurance policy that names the child as the beneficiary? If so, the surviving parent should call the insurance company to begin the process of collecting on the insurance policy on behalf of the child.
Was the deceased parent gainfully employed for a period of time? If so, the surviving parent may be able to seek benefits on behalf of the child from the Social Security Administration.
Does the parent have any assets? A parent's estate can include cars, houses, bank accounts, and retirement funds such as a 401k.
If a parent does not have life insurance, the estate will likely become responsible for paying any child support payments that are owed.
Death of a Custodial Parent
In the event that the custodial parent dies, the priority is determining who will care for the children. This may be the non-custodial parent, grandparents, other relatives, or friends of the family.
Again, each situation is unique.
If the non-custodial parent assumes custody, they may be able to seek a child support modification. They may also seek child support from the custodial parent's estate (assets) to help with the expenses associated with raising children.
The matter is different if the non-custodial parent does not assume custody of the child after a custodial parent dies. In this case, the child's caretaker may be able to collect child support from the non-custodial parent and seek support from the deceased custodial parent's estate.
A Partner's Death
Matters can also become complicated if a non-custodial parent has a partner. It's not uncommon to continue receiving notices from the family court when the deceased was charged with paying child support.
In this case, it is important for the surviving partner to call the family court to explain the partner's death. The court will likely require a death certificate as evidence and to verify the claim. In most cases, it should be mailed directly to the family court.
Seek Legal Advice
It's unfortunate when a parent dies. However, the obligation to support a child does not die with them. It is in the child's best interest that the surviving parent continues to receive support.
A parent who is seeking answers regarding the death of another parent should seek help from a qualified family law attorney in the state to discuss child support. Additionally, an estate planning attorney can help parents prepare for unforeseen circumstances, such as death or disability.