Wife receives half of WC settlement in dissolution of marriage
Case name: Day v. Day, No. 2008-CA-000133-MR (Ky. Ct. App. 12/11/09).
Ruling: The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a finding that a worker's entire settlement was marital property, and therefore, his wife was entitled to one-half of the settlement in the dissolution of the marriage.
What it means: In Kentucky, workers' compensation benefits accrued after marriage are considered marital property. In dissolution of marriage proceedings, a court must divide the benefits like other marital property, taking into account: 1) the contributions of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property; 2) the value of the property to each spouse; 3) the duration of the marriage; and 4) the economic circumstances of each spouse when the property is divided.
A worker was injured on the job three months before he separated from his wife. The worker filed for benefits after the separation. He received a gross settlement of $30,000, which was determined to be a marital asset. The wife was awarded one-half of the settlement in the dissolution of marriage proceeding, and the worker appealed. He argued that the court abused its discretion in failing to divide the settlement in "just proportions."
The Kentucky Court of Appeals rejected his argument, finding that an equal division of the settlement proceeds was proper considering the circumstances. The court noted that the marriage lasted five years, the worker's settlement was not the only substantial marital asset, the worker was not totally disabled, and he had the ability to obtain appropriate job skills but chose not to do so. Trial courts in marriage dissolution proceedings are vested with broad discretion when dividing marital property. The court pointed out that although the worker was injured just three months before his separation and received his settlement only months before the dissolution, it would not conclude that the trial court incorrectly weighed the evidence in deciding to split the proceeds equally.
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January 28, 2010
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