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Madden Bill To Protect Deceased’s Remains From Surviving Spouse With Restraining Order Advances In Committee

Bill Would Also Deny Spouse Control over Funeral if the Spouse is Charged with Intentional Killing of Deceased

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden which would amend current law to prohibit a deceased person’s spouse from making funeral arrangements if the deceased had a restraining order against the spouse or the spouse was charged in murdering the person was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

“A funeral can be a difficult time for the deceased’s loved ones, and sometimes, family members make decisions that not everyone agrees with,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “However, I think it becomes a complete mockery of the person’s memory if a violent, estranged or accused spouse is given control of the deceased person’s remains. In those instances when foul play is suspected or a restraining order has been issued, the funeral arrangements should be made by other family members.”

The bill, S-2530, would amend the law dictating the order of persons who have control over the funeral and disposition of human remains in the event that the deceased person did not leave instructions in a last will and testament. Under the current law, the surviving spouse or domestic partner has first priority, regardless of whether or not a restraining order has been issued or the spouse is charged with the intentional killing of the person. In addition to updated the current law to include civil union partners, as opposed to domestic partners, the bill would prohibit spouses from controlling the disposition of remains if a temporary or permanent restraining order had been put in place, or if the spouse was charged with murder.

“As much as possible, we want to avoid a situation like the one that took place in California centered around the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn son by her husband, Scott,” said Senator Madden. “In that case, while the trial of Scott Peterson was taking place, Laci’s parents were rightfully granted the authority under the eyes of the law to bury their daughter and unborn grandson. Through this bill, we want to make sure that in New Jersey, the same moral and just outcome that took place in the Peterson case regarding the funeral arrangements for Laci and Conner be allowed to take place in the Garden State, and that the memory and last wishes of the deceased be honored.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.