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Workers Compensation and Divorce: Does My Spouse Have a Right to My Benefits?

Going through a divorce while receiving workers compensation benefits after a work injury can be very stressful.

A workplace injury can have serious consequences on someone’s life. Sometimes, the repercussions can be so severe that the victim has to also deal with relationships damaged beyond repair. Many cases of victims who file for workers’ compensation benefits are accompanied by a divorce.

For people who are going through a divorce that includes workers’ compensation benefits, it can be a harsh reality. Their ex-spouse might feel entitled to a part of the benefits the victim receives. That’s because a lot of times the spouse also takes care of the victim, sacrificing their time and even career to help their partner through the recovery process. However, no one can minimize the pain and suffering the victim has from being left with no work and limited functionality. 

divorce and workers compensation

As you can see, even the premise on which such a case is based can be complicated. To add more uncertainty on both sides, the nature of workers’ comp benefits as the marital or non-marital property is to be decided by each court. The law allows discrepancies between different jurisdictions, sometimes even between cases of the same court.

Settling Divorce Asset Distribution in Missouri

In Missouri, when one of the divorcing spouses gets workers compensation benefits during the marriage, part of it is considered common property of the spouses. More precisely, the lost wages that the injured spouse had lost during the marriage are calculated as marital property and will be split equitably between the spouses.

An important principle in such a case is equitable distribution. This means that the judge will split a divorcing couple’s common property in a way that they believe is fair, and that’s not always the same thing as “equal”. 

Some of the factors that might give one of the spouses an advantage are:

  • The financial situation of each spouse and their and ability to work
  • How much they contributed to the acquisitions made during the marriage
  • The spouse’s behavior during the marriage
  • Custody of minor children
  • The value of their non-marital assets

In workers comp cases that overlay divorce cases, the victim’s injuries can be a good reason for the judge to not chip away too much of their benefits. Of course, the victim will support their side by providing evidence of medical expenses, they will show that their ability to work and gather income is limited and that they will have to replace their ex-spouse as care-givers. 

What Should You Do Next?

Workers’ compensation cases can be complex. If you have been injured on the job, it’s very important to speak with an experienced St. Louis workers compensation attorney about your legal right to workers’ comp benefits. They can help you understand your rights and the steps you can take next to reach a fair settlement.

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Updated: September 14, 2020