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Divorce and Your L&I Claim

Divorce, reduced to its simplest terms, is about ending the marriage, taking care of the children, and splitting the assets and liabilities. Divorce in Washington State is called dissolution of marriage. Often times it is a family tragedy.

An L&I claim is about money, medical, and disability benefits following a job injury. Usually it is a tragedy for the injured worker and the family.

The information supplied here consists of general rules and principles, not legal advice. Your facts will change the results. So only your lawyer looking at your facts can give accurate legal advice. Get your legal advice about a divorce from your divorce lawyer. Get legal advice about your workers’ compensation claim from your workers’ compensation lawyer.

L&I is not interested in the divorce.

  • Except the custodial parent gets the 2% per child allotment in time loss claims.
  • Except some pensioner’s payments may increase after a divorce.

The dissolution proceeding will care about and consider the L&I injury and the L&I benefits.

  • The injury affects the ability of the injured spouse to earn wages, support children, or maintain a spouse.
  • L&I benefits are separate assets, belonging to the injured worker, unless comingled.

Legal advice

Divorce lawyers, not L&I lawyers, are the experts about how a divorce affects the L&I claim. Get your legal advice about this from a divorce lawyer. You can show your divorce lawyer this page.

This information is for persons in Washington State. It applies to State of Washington L&I claims, and divorces in Washington State. Every state is different. Get your advice from a lawyer in your state.

Because divorce and L&I claims are each unpredictable, there is no way to predict with accuracy how a divorce will affect an L&I claim. However, certain principles hold true.

If you have dependent kids:

  • The welfare of the kids is very important.
  • One or both persons will get custody.
  • One divorcing parent may pay child support to the other.
  • Child support and parenting plans may be modified at a later date. Child support may be adjusted annually or bi-annually or at any time if a substantial change of “circumstance” has occurred, but parenting plan will not be modified absent a substantial change of circumstance.

Assets and liabilities are divided in divorce proceedings.

  • Assets in Washington State are community property or separate property.
  • Liabilities (debts) are community or separate.
  • An asset can change character. For example if you put a separate asset such as time loss money into a community bank account, that time loss money may then be comingled and if so it becomes a community asset, unless you can clearly and convincingly trace the source.
  • As a general rule, community assets (and liabilities) are split fairly in the divorce.
  • As a general rule, separate assets (and liabilities) are kept by the person who brought them to the marriage.
  • Judges have discretion. Washington is a community property state. As a general rule, judges granting a dissolution in Washington split the community property and community debts, and award to each party their own separate property and debts. However the judge granting a dissolution does not have to do this. Judges have authority to affect both community and separate property, unless there is a binding and enforceable prenup protecting the property brought to marriage.
  • L&I benefits are separate property.
    • Time loss benefits are a semi-weekly wage replacement. They are not guaranteed, nor vested, rather the worker needs to be qualified each day they receive this benefit. Time loss not yet paid is future compensation which makes it separate property.
    • Medical treatment for the effects of the job injury or occupational disease are paid directly to the medical provider.
    • Vocational benefits include assessment and sometimes training and/or money.
    • Settlement benefits are either:
      • PPD – Permanent partial disability. This is a money payment made at the end of a claim for loss of a physical or mental functioning.
      • Pension benefits are a lifetime payment stream made to a worker who is totally and permanently disabled and unable to return to any job in the work force. L&I pension payments are future compensation which makes this separate property.

More information on dissolutions is available from your divorce lawyer or this link.

What’s Next?

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