Insurance Settlement and Your Divorce

Insurance Settlements and Your Divorce

Divorce can be complex. Untangling finances, figuring out what to do for the children, and determining what’s community property can take time. Adding the complication of an insurance settlement to a divorce certainly doesn’t help.

The Law on Personal Injury Settlements

California law addresses insurance settlements in California Family Code 780 and 2603. While some of the language is vague, the law does address whether settlements are separate or community property.

Injuries During Marriage.

When a personal injury cause of action – the event that led to the injury – occurs during a marriage, then the insurance settlement for those injuries is considered community property. As such, the settlement is split 50-50 between the parties, even if only one party was injured.

Sometimes parties divorce after the accident, but before the insurance settlement is received. The community property/separate property determination is made based on when the injury occurred, not when the settlement is received.

Injuries Incurred Outside the Marriage.

If an injury occurred before parties were married, or after they start living separately, then the insurance settlement belongs only to the injured party. The term “living separately” does not necessarily mean “date of separation.”

For example, an unmarried person is seriously injured in a car accident, then later marries. The cause of action for the personal injury occurred before the marriage. Any insurance settlement is the property of the injured party only.

Reimbursement for Expenses

One exception to the separate property case noted above involves reimbursement for expenses paid by the non-injured spouse. Family Code 781(b) states that expenses paid by the non-injured person from separate property or community property may be reimbursed.

For example, if one spouse may be injured in an accident before the marriage. After the marriage takes place, the uninjured spouse pays expenses that relate to the injuries suffered in the accident. The uninjured spouse may be able to recover at least part of their expenses from the insurance settlement received by the injured spouse.

Learn More About Insurance Settlements and Your Divorce.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

How to Protect Yourself against Insurance Revenge during Your California Divorce

How to Protect Yourself against Insurance Revenge during Your California Divorce
Ending important personal relationships is hard for everyone involved. Unfortunately, some people take out their frustration and anger on their spouse, attempting to hurt them in various ways. Negative emotions sometimes even lead one spouse to change or cancel health or life insurance, often covertly. Fortunately, the California State Legislature has enacted laws to help prevent insurance revenge.

Imagine that while your divorce proceedings are pending, you become ill and go to the doctor. A workup is in order, so you go immediately to have blood work done, as well as a radiology test. Your health insurance denies coverage, sticking you with all the bills, because your vindictive, soon-to-be-ex removed you from his health insurance. The same thing could happen with a life insurance policy: you could be removed as a beneficiary from the policy. The California laws are intended to prevent these things from happening.

First, when a petition for divorce is filed, on the back of the summons is an automatic temporary restraining order that disallows a party from altering “life, health, automobile, or disability insurance.”

Second, California Family Code §§ 2050-2053 provide a mechanism that judges or parties to divorce proceedings may use to get insurance companies involved. The statute applies to health, life, and disability insurance coverage for spouses and children.

In essence, this second law allows a party to a proceeding or a judge to send a notice to an insurance company letting the company know that the ownership or benefits of a policy it has issued may be affected by a pending divorce proceeding. The notice advises the company that it must maintain the policy of ownership, beneficiaries, and covered dependents as they currently are until it receives an official document notifying it otherwise.

These laws provide important protections to prevent a spouse from changing or canceling insurance to the other spouse’s detriment. However, even with these laws in place, people are sometimes still successful in altering insurance. When this happens, it is critical to work with an experienced family lawyer who can schedule a quick hearing to protect or reinstate your insurance rights. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in divorce matters, including property and insurance issues. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.