In New York State, one ground, or legal basis, for a divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In other words, if a couple’s marriage has failed, then they are allowed to get a divorce. Prior to allowing this type of divorce in New York, the courts required grounds such as adultery or abandonment.

Recently, a couple submitted a stipulation to court that they would like to get divorced based on the irretrievable breakdown ground. There were issues that the couple needed to solve before the divorce could be granted by a judge. Therefore, they were in the “pre-trial” phase. Unfortunately, the wife committed suicide.

Usually, when a spouse dies during a divorce, the divorce proceedings are stopped. That is because the marriage would no longer be in existence. However, in some cases, there have been exceptions to this rule. The husband wanted the divorce to be granted, but the judge would not do so, claiming the case was not even close enough to being finalized. Additionally, the judge did not feel that he still had jurisdiction over this case, or the right to hear and make decisions about the case.

The reason that the husband wanted this was so that an automatic stay would apply. A stay means that during the divorce proceedings, the parties would not be allowed to change certain things such as the beneficiaries of their life insurance until the divorce is finalized. That is exactly what the wife did after she and her husband established the grounds for divorced. She changed her life insurance policy to make her children the beneficiaries of the death benefit payment instead of her husband. She also took her husband off of her pension plan and made her children the beneficiaries. The husband asked the judge to make the policies pay out the way they were before the divorce action started. Because the divorce was only getting started, and for the reasons above, the judge decided not to disregard the wife’s changes to her life insurance and 403(b) pension account.

If you are considering getting divorced, or if you need quality legal representation in family court, then you should contact an experienced lawyer. Jayson Lutzky is a lawyer with an office in the Bronx, NY with over 31 years of experience who fights for the rights of his clients. Mr. Lutzky offers free in office consultations with convenient hours including weekend hours. Call 718-514-6619 to set up a confidential appointment today. Visit to learn more about divorce.