What happens to custody arrangements when a spouse dies?

mens divorce lawyer Janet Yu JohnstonQuestion:

My ex-wife, who had sole physical custody of our son, recently died of a drug overdose.

Does this automatically grant me full custody of my son? Or am I still going to have to go through the courts for another custody battle?


The answer to your question depends on a few things: a) is there a custody order already in place? b) are you currently a joint custodian of your son? c) are there  other family members who may try to gain custody of your son?

Some other factors are whether you have had physical custody of your son since the time of your ex’s death, or whether he has been residing with someone else since that time.

If there is not a current custody order giving you sole custody of your son, that will be necessary. Whether or not such an order will require a battle with the courts will depend on the answers to the questions above.

Thus, if there isn’t a current custody order, I would definitely advise you to move quickly to speak with an attorney and possibly have a motion filed for sole custody of your son.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide.


Janet Yu Johnston is an Associate Attorney in the Louisville, Kentucky office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Johnston is licensed to practice law in the states of Indiana and Kentucky. Ms. Johnston received her Bachelor of Arts in both English and Foreign Lanugage/International Studies from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. She later received her Juris Doctor from University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law.

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One comment on “What happens to custody arrangements when a spouse dies?

    That says something about our court system, when a mother who has a major drug problem still gets full custody in preference over a (presumably) fit father.

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