My Ex-Spouse Received a Personal Injury Award. Will This Affect the Alimony I Receive?
Circumstances can change, even after the dust settles on a divorce judgment. Sometimes, an ex-spouse receives an award for damages because of a personal injury. That raises the question of whether the award changes the amount of alimony that they have to pay to the other spouse. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that there are 27,000 property, injury, and breach of contract cases filed in the United States each year. Statistically, that's going to mean some settlements are going to people who recently got divorced.
When couples get divorced, the court looks at the unique circumstances of their life together. It would look at the earnings of the parties, the financial situation of each person, and whether each person can work. The goal of alimony is to make sure that neither spouse suffers unfairly because they didn't work or because they worked less than they might have otherwise worked during the marriage.
The rules for alimony vary from state to state. Some states like Texas award the receiving spouse just enough to get by. Other states aim to award the receiving spouse enough to maintain the standard of living that they had during the marriage. Some judges view spousal support as an opportunity to help the receiving spouse get the education or career track that they might have obtained if they hadn't gotten married.
One of the things that the court considers when they set alimony is the ability to pay. The court isn't going to order one spouse to pay the other alimony if that spouse can't afford to pay. In the case of an injury, the hurt spouse may not be able to work. In that case, it's unlikely that the court is going to order the spouse to pay additional alimony.
Change in circumstances
However, a personal injury award can change things. While an award often pays for medical bills, one of the important things that an award can do is pay a person for lost wages, as a personal injury lawyer Memphis TN trusts can explain. In that case, a person who honestly isn't able to pay alimony prior to the award might be able to pay it quite easily because of the settlement.
Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Awards
It's important to look at the divorce judgment and state laws to determine if the alimony award can be modified. A divorce judgment might state that alimony is non-modifiable. If that's the case and if it's legal to make alimony non-modifiable in your state, you might not be able to do anything to get alimony.
On the other hand, if your alimony award is modifiable, the court might agree that justice is served when the party receiving the award pays some of it as alimony to an ex-spouse. It's important to explore all of the aspects of the case with your divorce lawyer. If you're facing a divorce or family law matter or if you're in a situation where an ex-spouse has received an award for an injury, it's important to work with a skilled and experienced attorney. The right attorney can help explain how your state's laws apply to you and help you make a plan to bring the issue to the court.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Wiseman Bray PLLC for their added insight into personal injury awards.