I was recently involved in a motor vehicle accident that will result in me receiving a significant financial settlement.
Since I am still married and the injury obviously occurred while I was married, is my wife entitled to any of this settlement money? What about if I file for divorce before the settlement is reached?
I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce. I can give general divorce help for men, though, my knowledge is based on Indiana divorce laws where I am licensed to practice.
The first thing you would want to determine is whether the accident occurred prior to the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Assuming that you were married and had not filed a Petition for Dissolution at the time of the accident, your second determination would be what the settlement was for.
If the settlement is for pain and suffering, that would likely be considered a marital asset where I practice. However, if the money is for lost future wages, that is not a marital asset.
Also, there are several factors a court will consider if the money is received during the marriage, such as whether the money was commingled with marital funds. This would include whether the money was deposited into a joint account, used to pay marital expenses, used for the benefit of both spouses, etc.
After reviewing all of these factors, the judge will make a determination as to whether the personal injury settlement proceeds are marital property based on the specific circumstances of the case.
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Another important consideration under my state’s divorce laws is when the settlement is paid. If the divorce proceedings are still ongoing, then the settlement proceeds may be ordered to be split if they are otherwise marital property.
If, however, the settlement is not paid until after the divorce has been finalized, it is not likely that the settlement proceeds would be divided between the parties because a future award is not guaranteed.
To order a husband to pay to his spouse a sum of money in anticipation of an award of money from a personal injury suit in the future may result in a windfall to the spouse if the husband does not receive the amount expected or does not receive any money at all.
For this reason, if the settlement is to be divided between the spouses, it must be received prior to the divorce being finalized. Each state handles these matters differently and for a better analysis of your state’s divorce laws, you should refer to an attorney licensed to practice in your area.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips for men, so please consult with a divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction.