Is My Recovery from a Discrimination Case Subject to Division in My Divorce?

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Every year, thousands of Americans file and succeed in claims against their employers for discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination, age and gender discrimination, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and more. Many Americans get divorced each year, as well.  When workers recover compensation, they may worry about the effect their financial recovery could have on their pending or soon-to-be-filed divorce case. To better understand how Alabama courts look at this situation, consider the following.

Types of Financial Court Orders

First, it is important to understand what a family court judge can and cannot do in Alabama. Courts have broad discretion to make financial determinations about:

  • Division of property (includes real estate, tangible property, and money)
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Assets and Debt

Each of the above is a different type of consideration. Under Alabama law, the court may divide your “marital estate.”  This is the corpus or entire group of things the court is permitted to divide. Some things fall outside the marital estate, meaning they are not generally subject to division.

Alabama law provides that unless you and your spouse agree (or there is some other federal or state law applicable to the matter), your marital estate includes the following:

  • Income from employment
  • Retirement accounts
  • Interest
  • Pensions
  • Profit sharing accounts
  • Military thrift savings plans
  • Assets and property acquired during the marriage
  • Assets and property acquired before the marriage (if mixed with the marital estate)

What Exactly is a Lawsuit Recovery?

In the vast majority of cases, courts will consider money recovered through a civil action as part of your marital estate, subject to division.

Given the fact that most things acquired during your marriage will be considered marital assets, subject to division, the real question is: How does the court classify your monetary award?  It all depends on the unique facts.

For instance, if you filed a lawsuit or complaint for discrimination for events that took place before you were married, then you may be able to exclude the recovery. After all, a good portion of your recovery is because of money you would have rightfully earned if not for the discrimination, and that money would have been earned prior to marriage.

On the other hand, even if the discrimination case is based on events and employment during your marriage, it might still be partially excluded in limited circumstances.

What About Child Support and Alimony?

Recovery of money due to you from a civil action is almost always going to be considered when determining child support. Of course, you and your attorney should make clear to the court that those funds are not recurring. They are a one-time award that will not likely have future payments. The same is true of alimony. It would be patently unfair to base future alimony payments on the value of a one-time award. That said, it needs to be disclosed to the court well in advance, as it will likely be the subject of negotiations.

Getting Help With Your Alabama Divorce

If you are facing a challenging Alabama divorce, call Five Points Law Group today to get real help and real answers. Our firm can help you prepare for your new life after divorce by offering careful and informed guidance. Do not risk your financial freedom; call today.

Allen Arnold
Allen Arnold
Allen has practiced in the field of employment litigation, almost exclusively representing employees, for his entire career.

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