Commmon questions Miami Personal Injury Clients ask their attorney when going through a divorce: "Can my ex-wife or ex-husband get my personal injury settlement money?" "Do I have to share my settlement with my wife - we are separated?" "Why does my wife sign the release?" or "I am the one that was hurt in the car accident, why does my wife/husband have to sign the settlement check and/or release - I don't want them to know about the money."
All that are involved in a personal injury case BEWARE - If you are legally married, your spouse may have a claim attached to your case. That claim could be a consortium claim, a claim for loss of care and services, etc. In sum, if you are injured, many times you are no longer able to do household tasks such as mopping, cleaning a bathroom, cooking or doing the laundry. You may also not be able to show as much affection or attention since you are dealing with your own pain. For these losses, your spouse can make a legal claim against the person that hurt you.
Turning to divorce. It is important to know that Florida is an equitable distribution state - or fair division state. However, it is important to know that Florida also in most cases defines equitable as equal. Most family law cases are extremely fact specific and take into consideration: 1) how the money was identified in the settlement agreement (what percentage was for the wife and what percentage was for the husband); 2) when the accident happened which is the subject of the lawsuit; 3) when you and your spouse were separated and/or the date of the divorce.
The best way to protect your personal injury money from a divorce is to do the following:
1) Clearly identify in the release language/settlement agreement the amount of money to the unjured and the exact amount of money to the spouse for their claims. This will clearly identify what are personal assets versus what are marital assets.
2) Early on let your personal injury attorney know of the issues with your marriage. If you have hired a divorce attorney make sure that your attorneys are on the same page, so everything moves as smoothly as possible.
3) If you do receive any money before the divorce is finalized, make sure that you open up a separate bank account for the money until the Courts have determined how it will be split.