Wrongful conviction settlement subject to property division

During the course of a Florida divorce, a great deal of focus is placed on the process of dividing marital wealth. In many cases, spouses do not see eye to eye on certain aspects of the property division process. However, there are some instances in which a property division claim makes national headlines. An example is found in the case of a man who is struggling to protect a legal settlement obtained during the course of his marriage.

The case centers on a man who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of an 11-year-old girl. When DNA evidence led to his exoneration, he was released from prison. He sued for wrongful conviction, which resulted in a settlement of nearly $20 million.

While in prison, the man married a woman who visited him while he was behind bars. The couple divorced just a few years after he was released, and the wife claims that she was entitled to a share of the wrongful conviction settlement payout. The matter went to court, and a recent appellate decision states that the settlement should be considered marital property.

The man will continue to fight through the next level of appeals. His attorney released a statement suggesting that the appellate ruling was yet another source of injustice inflicted upon his client. The man’s wife, however, feels that the ruling underscores her right to share in her husband’s settlement payout, and goes on to say that she was there for her husband at a time when few others believed in his innocence. Many Florida readers will continue to follow the property division case to see how the issue is ultimately resolved.

Source: abajournal.com, “Exonerated inmate’s $20M settlement is marital property in divorce, appeals court says“, Debra Cassens Weiss, Oct. 6, 2016

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