Contact a Family Lawyer Memphis, TN if Life Insurance is Changed During Divorce Proceedings

Family Lawyer Memphis, TN

Tennessee Injunctions upon Filing Divorce.

Ask a family lawyer Memphis, TN about Tennessee law, which requires these injunctions. At the time a spouse files a complaint for divorce in Memphis,  TN, a set of automatic injunctions go into place.   They prevent either of the parties from taking certain actions. The parties are prevented from making changes to life insurance policies, hiding or disposing of assets, relocating with minor children, and harassing one another. These injunctions remain in place until the divorce is final or dismissed.

Unfortunately, all too often, some parties fail to abide by these rules.  A party may, in violation of the Court’s order, change life insurance beneficiaries or dispose of an asset. There are a number of remedies the other party can seek through a family lawyer Memphis, TN in order to rectify these issues.  For example, the other party may be cited for contempt of court. These issues can have large implications for assets and life insurance policies. However, a party may die before a violation is remedied.

Remedying Violations After Death.

Fortunately, the Tennessee Supreme Court took up this very issue for the first time in Coleman v. Olson. In this case, a wife filed a complaint for divorce against her husband. She then immediately served the complaint on him, and the injunctions went into effect. Unfortunately the wife became seriously ill a week after filing for divorce. While in the hospital she changed the beneficiary from her current husband to her mother. This change violated those injunctions. Soon thereafter, the wife died, and the life insurance company paid her mother all of the proceeds.

The Court could have directed that the husband be renamed as beneficiary, if the wife was not dead. However, upon a party’s death, divorce proceedings abate, and the remaining spouse becomes a widower, not a divorcee. As such, the statutory injunctions expire at the time of a party’s death.  This leaves the Court stuck since it does not have any way to enforce the injunctions or remedy the violation. Thus, presumably the husband would have been left without a remedy.

An Equitable Solution.

The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that trial courts continue to have the equitable power to resolve such a violation. This remains true even though the divorce proceedings end at the time of the other parties’ death. The Court is empowered to consider an equitable result. The Court may use its discretion to award the life insurance proceeds among the widower and the other potential beneficiary.

In this case, the Court would therefore have the jurisdiction to decide how the proceeds should be divided between the husband and the wife’s mother. It may be equitable for all, a portion, or none of the proceeds to go to the husband. Tennessee trials courts have the discretion to fix a violation based on the circumstances. If the Court concludes that it is more equitable for the widower to receive all of the proceeds, then it may do so. Ask a family lawyer Memphis, TN trusts regarding an equitable remedy for these situations.


Wiseman Bray Attorneys

If you are considering filing for divorce, or have other family law related questions, and need counsel to discuss family law issues, call or schedule a consultation with our family lawyer Memphis, TN attorneys at Wiseman Bray PLLC today.  Call our office at (901) 372-5003 to ask for a consultation!

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