Under Texas family law, property acquired by a spouse during the marriage is community property, unless it meets the requirements of separate property. Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 3.001, personal injury recoveries are the separate property of the injured spouse, but recovery for lost earning capacity is community property. Property possessed by a spouse during or on dissolution is presumed to be community property, so a spouse claiming a personal injury recovery is their separate property must prove by clear and convincing evidence what portion is separate. A wife recently challenged the property division in her Texas divorce after the court concluded monthly payments from a personal injury settlement were the husband’s separate property.
According to the appeals court’s opinion, the wife had primarily been a homemaker during the marriage, but she sometimes worked part-time.
The husband was seriously injured at work in 2006. He was found to be incapacitated and the wife acted as his guardian in the resulting lawsuit. In the personal injury settlement agreement, the wife agreed, on behalf of her husband and herself, to release all claims against the defendants. The defendants’ insurance companies agreed to immediate cash payments and monthly payments for the rest of the husband’s life. The settlement provided that $1,150,000 of the cash payments was for the husband’s benefit and $50,000 would go to the wife. The settlement agreement also stated the monthly payments were for the husband’s benefit. The monthly payments were secured through the purchase of an annuity pursuant to the settlement agreement. The agreement also stated that funds were “damages on account of personal physical injuries or sickness” pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code. It also provided that the husband and wife were responsible for paying their attorney’s fees, court costs and case expenses, and any medical bills and liens.