At least two Florida Courts have ruled on the issue of pain and suffering divorce settlement and personal injury settlement marital property. In a recently released decision, the case of Roth v. Roth, the District Court of Appeals focuses in part on Florida Statute 61.075(1). No. 2D19-2559, 2021 WL 800268, at 2 (Fla. 2d DCA Mar. 3, 2021). Florida Statute 61.075 governs the equitable distribution of marital property (both assets and liabilities) in a Florida divorce. Pursuant to the Statute, the trial court is instructed to first “set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities” and then “distribute the marital assets and liabilities between the parties.” Florida Statute § 61.075(8) further provides that “Assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are presumed to be marital, and the presumption is overcome only by a showing that the assets are nonmarital.” Is a personal injury settlement marital property in Florida? Have you been injured in a case accident or slip and fall and you want to know if your personal injury settlement is marital property and/or if your pain and suffering is going to be part of a divorce settlement? Call Jacobs Law Firm for a consultation at 407-335-8113.
Pain and Suffering Divorce Settlement
In categorizing personal injury awards acquired during the marriage, Florida follows the “analytical approach” not the “unitary approach” (the unitary approach argues that any accident settlement for an individual is uniquely and solely for that individual) in identifying and decision on the issue of pain and suffering divorce settlement and personal injury settlement marital property See Weisfeld v. Weisfeld, 545 So. 2d 1341, 1346 (Fla. 1989) (the Florida Supreme Court adopted the aforementioned analytical approach, which considers the purpose of the portions of the personal injury award when classifying them as marital or nonmarital). According to the so-called analytical approach, the type(s) of accident settlement awards/monies that are subject to being classified as marital property may include: “the amount of the award for lost wages or lost earning capacity during the marriage of the parties and medical expenses paid out of marital funds during the marriage.” Id. at 1345. The reasoning may be that monies paid to replace lost wages would otherwise have been marital monies as standard earnings/earnings capacity. Generally, potential future lost wages and future pain and suffering are not marital property subject to equitable distribution.
When ruling on pain and suffering divorce settlement in Florida and personal injury settlement marital property, the family law court must distinguish which portion of the settlement is marital and that which is nonmarital property. The injured and/or aggrieved spouse’s nonmarital property may be comprised of any portion of the damages award allocated because of the spouse’s pain and suffering. Id. If the Court finds that there is no law, rule, precedent, or guideline for how to classify an accident award of damages, they generally regard it as marital.
Any given case can have serious questions, particularly when an accident settlement does not come with an itemized listing of how damages are apportioned. Litigants may wish to consider avoiding the commingling of accident settlement funds as they may lose their non-marital character. When in doubt, call Jacobs Law Firm for a consultation to help understand your rights and responsibilities. 407-335-8113.