Carr v. Carr

In Carr v. Carr, 120 N.J. 336, 349-50, 576 A.2d 872 (1990), the husband died during the pendency of divorce proceedings which were initiated by his wife, and he left his entire estate to his children from a prior marriage. At issue was whether or not the wife was entitled to either a statutory equitable distribution of the marital assets, or only the statutory elective share. The Supreme Court held that by its terms, the equitable distribution statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, did not permit distribution of the marital assets to the wife because her divorce was never finalized. Carr, 120 N.J. at 345-46, 576 A.2d 872. Moreover, the court held that the elective share provisions of the Probate Code, N.J.S.A. 3B:8-1 et seq., did not allow the wife to obtain the elective share because she was not living with her husband at the time of his death. Id. Nevertheless, the Court relied on equitable grounds to permit the wife to obtain the benefit of those assets which constituted the marital estate. Since neither statute, by their terms, offered Mrs. Carr relief, the parties characterized her plight as akin to being trapped in a black hole.