Legal Question in Family Law in California

I had a work accident 4 years ago and recieved a settlement for the injurys. I am currently going thru a divorce can my ex claim any of that money?

Asked on 7/19/13, 4:40 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach

The best answer is maybe.

Workers' compensations benefits have traditionally been characterized for purposes of determining community property by analogy to personal injury damages. (In re Marriage of McDonald (1975) 52 Cal.App.3d 509.)

In McDonald, the Court of Appeal held that a workers' compensation lump sum award pursuant to a settlement agreement received by an injured spouse after a marital separation was the injured spouse's separate property.

Personal injury awards are not per se separate property. "Except as provided in Section 781 and subject to the rules of allocation set forth in Section 2603, money and other property received or to be received by a married person in satisfaction of a judgment for damages for personal injuries, or pursuant to an agreement for the settlement or compromise of a claim for such damages, is community property if the cause of action for the damages arose during the marriage." (Fam. Code, sect. 780.)

Personal injury awards are analyzed by when the cause of action arose. Case law regarding worker's compensation awards, however, are analyzed by reference to when the payments are made. Thus, workers' compensation payments made to a spouse during marriage have been considered community property. (Northwestern Redwood Co. v. Industrial Accident Comm'sn (1920) 184 Cal. 484, 486.; In re Marriage of Robinson (1976) 54 Cal.App.3d 682, 684-686.)

More recently, courts have begun to analyze the worker's compensation awards by comparing them to disability benefits, rather than personal injury benefits, and have examined the purpose of the payments to determine whether the compensation received by an injured spouse is community or separate property. "We hold that the portion of such an award attributable to disability or pension payments owed during the marriage or medical expenses paid with community funds is community property, but the remainder of the award is the injured spouse's separate property." (Raphael v. Bloomfield (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 617, 622.

So the answer to your question depends on the underlying nature or characterization of the award.

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Answered on 7/22/13, 5:08 pm

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