How Divorce Can Affect Personal Injury Settlements

divorce agreement on a typewriter
divorce agreement on a typewriter

While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind during a family breakup, if you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse recently had a personal injury settlement then you might be wondering how that will be affected by your divorce. There several ways that divorce and personal injury cases can interact, and here are some details you’ll want to keep in mind should you find yourself in such a situation.

The Concept Of Marital Property

Laws regarding property vary from state to state, but in the state of California, each spouse owns one half of their community property and each is responsible for one half of their debts. If the personal injury and subsequent settlement came about during the marriage, then each spouse is entitled to half. So, for instance, if you were involved in an accident, received a large settlement, and then went through divorce proceedings, your spouse should still be entitled to half of that settlement since it arose during marriage.

Now, it’s important to note that this is all assuming there’s nothing else going on in your situation that might alter the outcome as there are specific circumstances in which exceptions might change how the law views that personal injury settlement. There’s a multitude of variables here, and not every situation plays out exactly the same, but speaking generally, here’s what to watch for.

Exceptions To The Rule

Let’s say the injury in question occurred outside of your marriage. That is to say that it happened before you were officially married or after you were living separate from your spouse. In these instances, the spouse who was not injured would not be entitled to any portion of the settlement money.

But this isn’t the only exception and it isn’t the only way that circumstances might change how a personal injury settlement is supposed to be divided up. 

In California, there are times when one spouse might be responsible for reimbursing another in personal injury situations, where lawsuits between separating spouses might affect money, and where family courts have some bearing over how community property is to be split between couples.

Some of that can seem vague and a bit difficult to parse through, and it definitely is. For more clarity, you’ll want to work with experts in this area, like Jolly Berry Law, to evaluate your unique circumstances and help you determine exactly how divorce will affect your personal injury settlement, if at all.