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Can I Protect my Personal Injury Award in Divorce?

Can I Protect my Personal Injury Award in Divorce? Even though 90% of all people in this country marry by the age of 50, a surprisingly large number of these marriages do not last. Data shows that approximately 58% of all Ohio marriages end in divorce. Divorce is seldom easy and involves various challenging processes including the division of marital assets. If you received funds from a personal injury settlement during the marriage, you likely have questions about whether you will be able to keep this amount in the divorce. The following briefly discusses how property is divided during Ohio divorces as well as how personal injury settlements are treated during this complicated legal process.  If you have questions, Kruger & Hodges, Attorneys at Law is a personal injury law firm in Hamilton, Ohio that may be able to help.

How Property is Divided During an Ohio Divorce

Ohio is an equitable distribution state, which means that Ohio courts divide marital property between former spouses in a manner that is deemed fair. Courts recognize two types of property that are owned by married couples — marital and separate property.

Marital property includes property that is acquired by the couple during the marriage and includes all real and personal property owned by one or both spouses, any interest that the spouses have in real estate or personal property, and any income and appreciation on separate property.

Separate property includes things like an inheritance received by one spouse, any property acquired before the marriage, passive income from separate property, property excluded through a prenuptial agreement, and any gifts received by one spouse or the other during the marriage. If a spouse does not carefully structure asset ownership, however, separate property can be distributed as community property.

Unique Factors about Personal Injury Awards in Divorce

Many personal injury awards in Ohio are classified as separate property. There are, however, some unique factors to consider about these awards, which include:

  • If the injury occurred during a marriage, there is a risk that the award might end up addressing some types of community property
  • If you were the only plaintiff in the accident, the award will likely be classified as separate property. If your spouse was also a plaintiff, the award might end up classified as marital property.
  • If the claim is for loss of consortium or companionship, your former spouse might have a right to receive this amount.
  • If you deposited your award in a joint marital bank account and now are unable to distinguish these funds from other marital assets, there is a risk the award might end up classified as community property. In the case of Modon v. Modon, 115 Ohio App. 3d 810, 686 N.E. 2d 355 (1996), an Ohio court classified the full amount of a personal injury award as marital property. The court reached this decision because it could not distinguish what parts of the award were for lost wages and other damages and as a result classified the whole amount of marital property. The court also stated that the responsibility of showing the property is separate is on the party pursuing the claim.

Contact Kruger & Hodges, Personal Injury Attorneys Today

If you need the help of a  lawyer to protect your personal injury award in divorce, you can reach Kruger & Hodges 24 hours a day at our Hamilton, Middletown, or Eaton offices, or by calling (513) 894-3333.

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