Making The Complex

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Property division could complicate California divorce cases

When it comes to dividing property, whether certain items are considered separate or marital property could play a significant role. In many cases, items obtained during the marriage are considered marital property and eligible for division during divorce. However, there may be some instances in which extenuating circumstances could make determining marital property more difficult. 

California residents may find a property division case currently taking place in another state interesting. Reports stated that the case involves a man who was wrongfully incarcerated for 20 years and the woman he met and married while in prison. After the man was exonerated, lawsuits filed relating to the wrongful conviction resulted in the man being awarded a $20 million settlement. After appropriate taxes and legal fees, the man was left with over $11 million. 

Because the settlement was obtained during their marriage, the woman believes that it should be considered marital property to be divided during their divorce. However, the man claims that since the money stems from injustices he suffered before the marriage, the funds should be separate. A court recently ruled that the money was marital property, but the man will likely seek legal action in hopes of having that ruling overturned. 

Though the amount addressed in this case is uncommonly significant, there may be other circumstances under which individuals may question whether property is separate or marital. During such scenarios, individuals may want to determine what their options may be for obtaining the results they desire. Consulting with experienced attorneys could help California residents understand how their property may be classified under state law and how it could affect divorce proceedings.

Source:, “Exonerated Man’s $20 Million Settlement Considered Marital Property in Divorce“, Jacob Maslow, Oct. 16, 2016


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