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What is marital property may be surprising

Photo of Karen Lavin

Divorce is often a complicated proposition, but some are a little more complicated than others. When it comes to property division, sometimes the lines between what is and is not considered marital property can get blurry. One Illinois man is currently fighting an unexpected legal battle fresh off winning another. The man was recently freed after serving 20 years in prison for a wrongful conviction, and was accordingly awarded a $20 million settlement. While that may sound like a dream come true, he is now facing the prospect of potentially splitting the windfall with a woman he married while incarcerated, and is now divorcing.

The payout, which was the largest wrongful conviction settlement in Illinois history, was reduced to about $11.4 million after taxes and legal fees. The incredible turn of events turned once again when an Illinois appeals court ruled that the settlement was to be considered marital property in relation to the man's divorce, and was therefor subject to equitable division.

The man's lawyer has said that he intends to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court, claiming that the basis of the settlement is from suffering that began well before the marriage. Similarly, his wife claims that she is entitled to a portion of the settlement both because of her years spent in the marriage, and more specifically because a portion of the settlement is due to a defamation suit that took place while the two were married.

Divorce is one of those things that can always get more complicated than you think it will, and it is always wise to have the best guidance through the process that you can get. Regardless of what you think you stand to lose, there may be more at stake in divorce than you can anticipate. The guidance of an experienced divorce attorney can ensure that you remain well-informed while your rights remain protected.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, "$20 million settlement up for grabs in exonerated man's divorce," Tony Briscoe, Oct. 05, 2016

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