An issue that may arise in a Florida divorce is whether an injured spouse’s recovery of a personal injury award constitutes marital property that is subject to distribution.
In resolving this issue, the Florida Supreme Court in Weisfeld v. Weisfeld, 545 So. 2d 1341, 1346 (Fla. 1989) has implemented an “analytical approach” to establish whether an award for personal injury constituted marital property. White v. White, 705 So. 2d 123 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1998).
In other words, a Florida Family Court in applying the “analytical approach” will have to look to the nature of the damages awarded in a personal injury case in order to determine whether any portion of that property is separate or marital property. Weisfeld, 545 So. 2d at 1345. If any portion of the property is deemed marital, then that portion is subject to distribution.
Under the analytical approach, the damage award is to be allocated pursuant to the following:
(1) Noneconomic compensatory damages for pain, suffering, disability, and loss of ability to lead a normal life and any economic damages which occur subsequent to the termination of the marriage of the parties, which includes loss of future wages and future medical expenses, is characterized as “separate property” of the injured spouse. Therefore, it would not be subjected to distribution in a divorce. Id.
(2) On the other hand, the noninjured spouse would receive as “separate property” any damages obtained as result of loss of consortium. Id.
(3) Lastly, damages awarded due to lost wages, lost earning capacity, or medical expenses paid out of marital funds during the marriage, and any unallocated damages awarded will be treated as marital property subject to distribution. Id.
Although the “analytical approach” establishes the characterization of the property, i.e., whether it should be considered marital or separate property, the Family Court Judge will still need to determine the distribution of the marital property. Id. at 1346.
Furthermore, the Family Court Judge may still consider the amount received by the injured spouse for future loss of wages in determining alimony and support awards. Id.
Contact an experienced Palm Beach Divorce Lawyer at the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. to schedule a consultation.