Dividing a Personal Injury Settlement in a Florida Divorce
If you have suffered an injury caused by a negligent party in Florida, you are entitled to financial compensation to pay for your losses, such as medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and even pain and suffering. But if you and your spouse file for divorce, what happens to your personal injury award?
Remember, Florida is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that marital property—assets a couple has accumulated throughout their marriage—must be divided equally and fairly, as opposed to splitting everything 50/50 like in community property states. In general, personal injury awards and settlements are not considered marital property and not subject to property division in Florida, especially if the injured spouse had already received the damages prior to getting married and the asset remained separate throughout the marriage.
However, the following are a few exceptions to this rule:
- Itemized personal injury settlements – The non-injured spouse may be entitled to a portion of the award meant to cover lost wages that occurred during the marriage (since wages earned during a marriage are considered marital property) or loss of consortium.
- Marital funds were used to pay medical bills – Since the legal process must play out before an injured person is compensated for their losses stemming from the accident, victims will initially pay for their medical treatment out of pocket. So, if marital funds were used to pay hospital bills and other medical services, then the same amount could be taken from the settlement funds and placed into the marital estate.
- Commingled funds – If the personal injury award is mixed with marital funds and/or used to pay marital debts, then it will be considered marital property. For example, the money from the settlement is deposited in a joint checking account or used to pay the mortgage or other household bills.
Property division can be a complex process during a divorce, especially when a personal injury settlement is involved. It is wise to hire an experienced divorce attorney to help you determine what assets may or may not be part of your marital estate.
If you are interested in filing for a divorce in New Port Richey, FL, contact Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office today at (727) 312-1112 to get started! More than 35 years of family law experience.