When a couple decides to end their marriage, one of the primary areas of focus is how to divide marital wealth. Some couples have a more complicated mix of assets than others, but every now and then a divorce case will contain details that are shocking to many people, in Florida and across the nation. An example is found in a recent case involving a man’s multi-million dollar legal settlement, and his wife’s bid for a portion of that money.
The man was convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl. He spent 20 years behind bars for that crime, until DNA evidence proved that he was not to blame for the child’s death. He was released from prison in 2012, and sued multiple law enforcement agencies. His settlement amount of $20 million was believed to be among the largest for a wrongful conviction suit at that time.
The man had met and married a woman while in prison serving his life sentence. She was a volunteer who worked on his case, and told reporters that she was drawn to his personality. The couple were together for more than two years after his release, but then filed for divorce. The wife claims that she is owed a portion of her husband’s settlement money, specifically an amount tied to a defamation of character claim made in the lawsuit.
The man argues that the suffering he went through to earn that settlement amount took place long before he met his wife, but that he was unable to pursue a lawsuit until he was cleared of the crime and released. He has fought the matter in court, and a recent appellate ruling sided with the wife, claiming that the settlement proceeds should be considered marital property. As this divorce case moves on to the next level of appeals, readers in Florida and elsewhere will likely follow the matter.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “$20 million settlement up for grabs in exonerated man’s divorce“, Tony Briscoe, Oct. 5, 2016