Ex-Wife Seeks Portion of Husband's Compensation from State

The division of property pursuant to a divorce can be complex based on the circumstances. States have different methods for distributing property and property can be classified in different ways. Typically, there are rules in place to properly distribute the various types of property involved in a divorce. However, there are times when property division can be more difficult, due to unique circumstances.

A man was convicted for a series of sex crimes and pleaded guilty to others to avoid a possible life sentence. He was imprisoned and his wife visited him often and raised their son. They eventually divorced nine years later. The man spent 24 years in jail for the crimes until DNA testing proved that he was innocent. After he was freed, the state gave him a $2 million payment and a monthly payment of $11k. In total, the man will receive around $6 million for his time in prison. His ex-wife feels that she is entitled to a share of the money. She was awarded $153k for lost wages that her husband would have made. He argued that he wasn't awarded the compensation until well after the divorce and that the money should not be considered wages and therefore be considered community property.

One of the determinations to be made when distributing property pursuant to a divorce is how the property should be classified. Community property is considered any property acquired during the marriage. Separate property is typically any property acquired before marriage in the form of a gift or inheritance. Community property is subject to distribution between the parties to a divorce, while the separate property remains with the party to whom it belonged before the divorce.

The case above is unique, in that the ex-wife is seeking a share of her ex-husband's compensation for being falsely imprisoned by the state. Since he was in jail while they were married and she continued to support and visit him, she could argue that she should receive a portion of the award. However, he did not have the award, or any vested interest, while they were married and received it over a decade after their divorce, so it is difficult to see how she can claim any right to the money given to her ex-husband.

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