When is a Personal Injury Settlement Part of Your Marital Estate?

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If you are expecting funds from a personal injury settlement but are also in the midst of a divorce, you may be rightfully concerned about your ex-spouse’s entitlement to your settlement funds. To what extent is a spouse entitled to claim personal injury proceeds in a divorce in Alabama? Unfortunately, the answer is not black and white.

At Five Points Law Group, we advise clients on all areas of family law, from divorce and custody disputes to child support enforcement. If you are facing a divorce and have a personal injury settlement coming your way, reach out to one of our attorneys today. We can work with you and your personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected in your divorce and help you avoid giving up too much of your money.

 

What is Marital Property in Alabama?

 Alabama is considered an “equitable distribution” state, meaning the courts do not blindly split marital assets and debts right down the middle. Instead, the court is given broad discretion to award assets and debts according to what makes sense and what would be proper under the circumstances. Do not mistake “equitable” with “fair.” These are similar, but still different concepts. Only things that fall into the marital estate are subject to division by the court.

 

Almost Always Marital Property/Debts:

  • Income either person earned during the marriage
  • Money either party received during the marriage
  • Debts incurred during the marriage
  • Property acquired during the marriage
  • Anything that would normally not be marital property, but which is commingled or mixed with marital property

 

Almost Never Marital Property/Debts:

  • Things acquired after legal separation
  • Inheritance (unless commingled)
  • Income or assets acquired before marriage, so long as not commingled
  • Anything excluded by a prenup or postnup agreement
  • Family heirlooms

 

Where Does Personal Injury Compensation Go?

Personal injury settlements usually include compensation for a number of things, ranging from lost wages and medical expenses to money for disfigurement or pain and suffering. So, how it is classified will depend largely on the reason for which the compensation was awarded. Each case is unique and fact-intensive in Alabama, but here is a general guideline:

 

Marital assets:

  • Money compensating for medical expenses
  • Money for lost wages or income
  • Money for loss of affection, society, consortium, etc.
  • Loss of spousal support

 

Non-marital assets:

  • Compensation for disability or disfigurement
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Compensation for vocational retraining
  • Compensation for adaptive devices or prosthetics
  • Future medical expenses (exceptions may apply)

 

Help With Your Property Distribution in an Alabama Divorce

If you are facing a divorce and you think your ex will attempt to take some or all of your personal injury settlement, you should contact a family law attorney right away. Likewise, if you believe your soon-to-be ex-spouse is planning to hide money from a personal injury case, you should call an attorney who can help you understand your rights. At Five Points Law Group, we have decades of combined experience advising people about their divorce rights in Alabama, and we want to help you too. Call or visit us online today to learn more.

 

Documenting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment can be very difficult to document and prove, especially because many times it is committed in private, with few witnesses, and in an insular and private environment where disclosing it or coming forward may be frowned upon. So, how does one adequately document such actions in order to preserve rights and ensure success if a sexual harassment claim must be made?

The attorneys of Five Points Law Group want you to know your rights and understand how you can preserve as much evidence as possible. Here are a few easy ways to help document your sexual harassment case.

 

First, Consult an Attorney

 Before you do anything, you should probably speak to a sexual harassment lawyer near you. Find out a little more about whether the behavior and conduct you are seeing and experiencing at work are indeed inappropriate and unlawful. If your attorney agrees that this crosses the line, great. But remember, even if your attorney says the conduct has not risen to the level of sexual harassment, this does not mean you have to tolerate it. If you are uncomfortable, make it known.

 

Report it in Writing

 Report the conduct, but make sure you do so in a way that it can be easily proven that you made management aware of it. Emails are great for this purpose, as are written letters, so long as there is a way to prove it was received.  Explain that you have concerns and wish to make them known. Explain that you have put it in writing, so it is clear that these sexual advances or problematic actions are not welcome and must stop. Stay professional, do not resort to name calling or bad-mouthing. Stick to facts. Be brief but firm.

 

Keep Notes

Once you have made clear that you do not approve of the sexual comments or advances, begin keeping a journal or log of what is going on at work. Note each time the problem employees or supervisors say or do something in furtherance of the harassment.  Here is a short but powerful example of how that may look:

  • 20: Mike kept grabbing me at the holiday party and suggested we get a room. I told him no. But he kept trying. I left early to avoid problems.

 

  • 26: First day back from holidays, Mike tried again. I immediately told him no. Wrote email to manager expressing concerns.

 

  • 28: Mike began making sexual gestures in breakroom. Emailed Manager 2nd time.

 

  • 10: Manager called meeting and disregarded events as “guy talk.” Told me to just ignore it.

 

  • 11: Mike followed me to the car trying to grope me. I called my attorney.

 

Constructive Discharge

These may seem like extreme examples; sadly they are far too common and real for thousands of American workers who deal with sexual harassment every day. This simple, yet unfortunate example would almost certainly qualify as sexual harassment. By keeping notes, you create a ready template for your attorney and you help yourself remember the day-by-day events that led to your claim.

If the actions become threatening or intimidating (as following someone to a car could be), you may even be able to claim you were “constructively discharged” from employment. This means the conditions were so hostile and intimidating that a reasonable person would feel as though it was unsafe or impractical to return.

 

Call Five Points Law Group Right Away if You Think You May be a Victim of Sexual Harassment

 Do not wait to get help. Abusers and aggressive coworkers often use sexual harassment as a way to test the waters to see if a coworker will stand up to them or simply permit the behavior. The longer you wait to get answers, the more emboldened some may become. Act fast to protect your rights and talk to an attorney. If your employer takes adverse actions against you, you may even be entitled to additional compensation for your losses. Call Five Points Law Group today to speak with a sexual harassment lawyer about your situation.

 

Five Things That do Not Pass Through Probate

 If you are charged with handling a probate estate for a loved one who has passed, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. The process of administering an estate can feel like a massive undertaking, and in some cases, it can be. There is a lot of responsibility, not just to the heirs who are awaiting payment, but also to the deceased. There should be a sense of honor and dignity in the process, knowing that you were so trusted by this individual that he or she gave you the responsibility of handling such important matters.

At Five Points Law Group, we want you to be successful in streamlining the probate process and administering your loved one’s estate with ease. Our office helps representatives handle estates at every step of the process. In general, there is good news for representatives: Not everything is a probate asset. In fact, most things are not. Here is a short list of five common items that do not pass through the probate estate.

 

Joint Accounts

If the deceased individual kept his or her money in a joint bank account, then those funds may automatically transfer to the sole ownership of the remaining, surviving account holder through something called a “right of survivorship.” It will depend on how the account is set up. If the account is established in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, then the money will never touch the probate estate. The same is true of payable on death accounts.

 

Life Insurance

Except where all named beneficiaries have predeceased, in the vast majority of situations, life insurance is treated as a contract between the deceased individual and the life insurance company. The beneficiary designation form controls who gets the life insurance. A probate court will almost never exercise its authority to undo a contract like this unless there is evidence of forgery, fraud, or undue influence.

 

Trusts

Trust property belongs to the trust. This is the fundamental benefit of a trust �’ it takes the property out of the decedent’s ownership. Therefore, when a person dies, with or without a will, anything properly held in trust will be paid according to the trust agreement. You can place assets in trust, and your trustee will have absolute authority to carry out distributions unless someone challenges the validity of that trust agreement. It will not generally be subect to probate court authority.

 

Joint Deeds

Real estate deeds are often the exact same as bank accounts. Look at the deed and see how the property is titled. If it is held as joint tenants with right of survivorship or tenants by the entirety, then the property will pass to the surviving owners, rather than passing to the estate. If held as “tenants in common,” then each owner owns a fractional share, and the decedent’s percentage of ownership passes to the estate.

 

Business Interests

In the case of corporations and limited liability companies, look to the articles of incorporation or organization to see what happens to business assets upon death. Sole proprietorships and sole member S corps and LLCs usually will be part of the estate. When there are multiple shareholders, the articles of incorporation may dictate what happens to a decedent’s shares. Often, these are set up to avoid passing through probate.

 

Help With Administering Complex Estates

When high net-worth individuals pas away, it can be especially challenging for their heirs, who themselves may not have the business acumen or experience to handle the complex transactions necessary to resolve an estate. I you have been named the personal representative of an estate, call Five Points Law Group today. Let us guide you through the process and help you perform your duties in an ethical and efficient manner.

 

When is a Payroll Deduction Unlawful?

Has your employer been deducting expenses from your paycheck each week? You may be surprised to find that this is not always entirely lawful. Federal law prohibits employers from paying employees less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  Of course, put aside for a moment that this minimum wage has not increased in almost 10 years (since 2009). Many employers use payroll deductions as a loophole for getting around the minimum wage, so they can actually pay employees less than required.

At Five Points Law Group, our attorneys work hard to protect everyday workers and their families from payroll abuses and other types of wage violations. Call us if you need help with a wage dispute.

 

What CAN an Employer Deduct From My Pay?

 Employers have a host of things they can legally deduct. These can include the following:

  • Health and cafeteria elections �’ These are voluntary things you agree to, such as putting money in your 401(k), purchasing group health or dental coverage, and life insurance.
  • Full Day Absences �’ Hourly workers who miss work obviously are not paid for the time they are not at work. Salaried workers can also have their time docked from their salary for one or more days of full unexcused absence (things other than sickness or vacation leave). The same is true if it is sickness-related but there is no paid time off left.
  • FMLA Leave �’ Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employer can deduct the pro rata share of the salary while you are on leave. Basically, FMLA is unpaid leave, so your employer can reduce your salary accordingly.
  • Cash Shortages �’ So long as you are not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), your employer can generally “dock your pay” (i.e. deduct) the value that was lost. This generally comes up with cashiers, bartenders, and other cash handling positions.
  • Property Damages �’ Non-exempt employees can also lawfully be forced to pay back property that they damage. There are limits to this, however. If you do something careless to destroy your uniform, the company might be allowed to deduct the cost of a new uniform replacement.
  • Tools, Equipment, Uniforms �’ The required items for doing your job can actually be deducted in some cases. The key is whether doing so reduces your actual wages below the federal minimum wage.
  • Jury Duty �’ Your employer can deduct an offset for jury duty time.

 

When Your Employer can Not Deduct From Your Pay

If, during any given work week, the deductions would drop your income below the minimum wage, your employer is violating federal employment laws. Here is a quick example of how this works out sometimes:

An employer is paying $8.00 per hour, but deducts regular uniform and tool allowances of $40.00 per week. While the employee is clearly paying for his or her own equipment and tools, the bigger problem is that after subtracting $40.00 from the worker’s $320.00 per week, the resulting amount is just $280.00 ($10.00 short of minimum wage). This actually converts the employee’s true wage to just $7.00 per hour.

 

Fighting Unfair Wages in Alabama

 In addition to employers trying to get around federal minimum wage requirements, many use deductions as a way to evade paying overtime. If you suspect a problem with your wages, contact Five Points Law Group today.

Heather Fann
Heather Fann
Heather's practice seeks to preserve the dignity of clients through healthy paths for their changing families, employing both modern and traditional means of resolution including collaborative practice and methods such as use of Parenting Coordinators, as well as mediation, though she stands ready to litigate where necessary.

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