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Settlements, jury awards and Louisiana divorces

The rules that apply to property change when a Baton Rouge resident marries and change again if the marriage ends. All states have specific laws dealing with property division during divorce, including descriptions of separate and marital property. Property settlements in Louisiana are based on community property rules or equal shares of marital property for divorcing spouses.

Separate property belongs exclusively to individual spouses and is not divided. Many states consider inheritances, gifts and civil judgments to be separate from marital property, but there are exceptions. Some states simply push all settlements or jury awards during marriage into one category or the other.

In some instances, family law courts examine the circumstances involved in a personal injury case before deciding whether a settlement or award should be shared. Some spouses are co-plaintiffs in injury lawsuits, with damages specific to individuals' losses. For example, an uninjured spouse may claim loss of consortium, while the injured spouse appeals for damages for wage losses or medical bills.

Judges may divvy up an award according to the damages each spouse suffered. Timing can be important. Property division considerations also include the dates of a spouse's injury, the settlement or jury award and the separation or divorce.

Property division matters can become more complicated depending upon how proceeds from a settlement or award are used.

For example, let's say a spouse receives civil proceeds in a state that clearly identifies personal injury damages as separate property. The spouse takes some of the money and invests it in a new home. Separate property then becomes commingled with marital property and may be subject to equitable or equal marital property division rules.

Settlements and civil judgments are one of many property issues that can arise during a Louisiana divorce. Attorneys make sure spouses are clear about which assets are separate or marital property before a settlement is negotiated.

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