Are personal injury damages divided equally in divorce?

In California, many types of property are divided equally in divorce. California is a community property state, meaning that with limited exceptions property acquired during marriage is classified as community property and subject to equal division in divorce. However, even when some types of property are classified as community property, they’re not divided equally. One of those types of community property that are NOT divided equally in divorce are “community estate personal injury damages.”

Personal Injury Damages Are Community Property

Family Code Section 780 states:

money and other property received or to be received by a married person in satisfaction of a judgment for damages for personal injuries, or pursuant to an agreement for the settlement or compromise of a claim for such damages, is community property if the cause of action for the damages arose during the marriage.

Family Code 780

In light of Family Code 780, personal injury damages for a claim that arose during marriage are considered community property. For example, if a husband was injured in a car accident during marriage and filed a personal injury lawsuit, any subsequent settlement or judgment proceeds would be classified as community property.

Personal Injury Damages Exception To The Community Property Division Rule

While Family Code 780 classifies personal injury damages as community property, Family Code 2603(b) creates an exception to the 50/50 division rule for this form of community property. The statue reads:

(b) Community estate personal injury damages shall be assigned to the party who suffered the injuries…

Family Code 2603(b)

Therefore, while personal injury damages for a claim that arose during marriage are community property, they are generally awarded to the injured spouse. The only instance in which the court can award some of the damages to the non-injured spouse are when the “interests of justice” require such after considering the needs and economic condition of the parties, time since recovery of the personal injury damages, and all other facts of the case. (See Family Code 2603(b)).

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