You Divorced Me While I Was Locked Up and Now You Want My Money?

ArguejpgThe outcome of this case is still undecided and may eventually make it all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. At issue is whether money awarded to a wrongfully imprisoned man upon his exoneration is considered “community property” or “separate property” as it relates to divorce.

Steven Phillips was convicted in 1982 and 1983 for a series of sex crimes. His wife Traci insisted he was innocent and spent the next ten years visiting him in prison. Apparently separation eventually took its toll and the couple divorced in 1992. More than ten years later, Phillips was cleared by DNA evidence and released. He was awarded over $6 million by the state of Texas for his wrongful incarceration.

It was then that Traci returned to his life and asked for part of the money. She filed suit claiming that at least some of money Steven received belonged to her. She was awarded $150,000 by a state judge but appealed, seeking more money.

Unfortunately for Steven and Traci, lawmakers didn’t anticipate this issue when they wrote the law under which Steve was compensated.

If the money had been for lost wages, part of the money would belong to Traci under the community property law. On the other hand, money awarded for damages, as in personal injury lawsuit, is considered the spouse’s separate property.

The results of the appeal will tell us whether the court considers the money Steven received for wrongful imprisonment to be community property or separate property.

To learn more about community and separate property in a divorce scenario in Conroe, Texas and elsewhere in the region, the experienced family lawyers at Peterson Law Group are happy to help. Call 936-337-4681 today.

About Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson is an attorney and the owner and founder of Peterson Law Group, a Texas law firm with offices in Bryan/College Station and Kingwood. He mainly practices in the areas of Estate Planning and Business Planning. Chris is also a Certified Estate Planner. Besides his law practice, Chris is a serial entrepreneur and community volunteer. He is known for his cutting edge law practice that utilizes technology to deliver efficient, excellent work.