Black Hole (Divorce) Law and Legal Definition

A black hole, in the context of divorce, refers to the legal vacuum that happens when a spouse dies during a divorce, leaving the surviving spouse without recourse either under the state’s divorce or probate law. When a spouse dies in the midst of a divorce, the other finds him/herself in a black hole. The surviving spouse would have potential difficulties in receiving what should be rightfully his or hers.

According to law, death abates divorce since it takes two living spouses to have a marital union to dissolve. Under common law, if one party to a divorce dies in the midst of a divorce proceeding, the action abates and the decedent’s property is divided according to the law of decedents’ estates where he or she lives. Jointly held assets with rights of survivorship, such as bank accounts, stock certificates, insurance proceeds, pass to the survivor, but marital property in the name of deceased does not.