When mom and dad are litigating custody, or when mom and dad have a custody order determining their custody rights with regard to each other, and one of them dies, it is not uncommon for another member of the deceased parent’s family to file a request to intervene in the custody case. Frequently, the motion to intervene is filed by a grandparent who wants to step into the place of the deceased parent and share custody or visitation with the surviving parent.
Before we even reach the question of whether the court can award custody or visitation to a non-parent against the wishes of the surviving parent, we need to consider the procedural posture of the existing custody case. What is the impact of the death of a party on the pending case? What is the effect of the death on an existing custody order?