Luck just doesn’t seem to be on your side. First, your wife has asked you to leave the house. She’s planning on asking for a divorce. That’s bad enough. Soon thereafter, you’re a passenger in a car accident and severely hurt. Your ex taunts you. She insists she is entitled to half of your personal injury award. Could this be true?
Talk about putting the horse before the cart. It might seem that your ex isn’t particular interested in your recovery. Depending on your injuries, you could be temporarily or permanently stopped from returning to work. Or, quite possibly you were barely hurt. Or, the accident was your fault.
So, what does this mean? Are you required to share your personal injury award with your ex? Does it matter if divorce papers weren’t filed yet?
Personal Injury Award and Divorce
For starters, you should speak with a lawyer whose practice concentrates in family law to get specific answers regarding your accident claim and divorce action.
In particular, you’ll want to ascertain if any personal injury award or settlement money is considered separate or community property. Texas is a community property state, so this is particularly relevant.
According to the Texas statutes, anything acquired during a marriage is considered community property, unless there is “clear and convincing evidence” that it should be deemed separate property.
The distinction between separate and community property as it applies to divorce is arguable. For example, what if the money you received was for wage reimbursement? Your spouse would almost certainly be entitled to a share in a lost wages claim.
However, what if part of the personal injury award was for pain and suffering? This would be an example of an exemption from community property. And yet, separating the value of this portion of the claim may be cause for dispute.
As long as you are still married, your spouse may also have a loss of consortium claim. This means that as a result of the accident, your loved one was deprived of comfort and intimacy that was a part of your marriage.
Child Support Liens and Personal Injury
Whether you were married or not, you may have a court order directing you to pay child support to one or more children. Perhaps the accident left you unable to keep up with payments. There then becomes a problem with child support arrears.
You already know that children have a right to be supported by both parents. Your personal injury settlement or award may actually assist you in taking care of your child support obligations.
The Texas Office of the Attorney General will place a lien on personal injury cases where child support arrearages have been identified as an issue. They are authorized to do so within Section 157.317(a) of the Texas Code.