If my wife and I have been married 9 years and she is pending a lawsuit settlement, will I be able to share her money if divorced before the money is distributed to her?

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If my wife and I have been married 9 years and she is pending a lawsuit settlement, will I be able to share her money if divorced before the money is distributed to her?

Asked on January 11, 2016 under Family Law, Maryland

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Until you are divorced or there is a legal separation in effect your rights to a personal injury settlement remain the same as if you were in a stable marriage. In that regard, most state laws hold that if the settlement is to compensate for injuries, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment or medical expenses that do not have any impact on the marital estate, then it is considered to be separate property and therefore fully awarded in a divorce to the injured spouse. 
That having been said, some state courts have held that such a settlement is marital property under certain circumstances:

If there is a commingling of assets by accepting the entire settlement in one check that is made payable to both parties;
If it is compensation for lost wages; and/or
If it is for medical bills that have an impact on the marital estate. 

Additionally, when there is a lower settlement amount than what would have otherwise occurred because policy limits were low or the responsible party lacks funds, a court may allocate a portion of the settlement to lost wages, even if the settlement indicates that it is for personal injury only.
At this point you need to consult directly with a divorce attorney in your area as to the specidics of your case.


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