No-fault Divorces

Divorce is never easy but Illinois is one of more than 20 states that allow no-fault divorces as well as fault dissolution’s on the grounds of impotency, adultery, bigamy, desertion, cruelty or a felony conviction. Couples often seek a no-fault divorce but find that they have issues when it comes to the division of property. In Illinois, property is divided between the two spouses in an equitable manner by determining the following: how long was the couple married; what is a value of the property that each spouse claims and what are the economic circumstances of each of them. Martial property, acquired during the marriage, as well as debts acquired during the same time period, is divided between the two parties.

The court also considers what property each of the spouses brought into the marriage, as well as gifts or inheritances that either person received during the marriage; usually this property remains with the spouse whose property it was initially. But, in a recent case, In re marriage of Christopher Washkowiak and Rosana Washkowiak, the Appellate Court of Illinois 3rd District ruled that the settlement of Mr. Washkowiak’s workers’ compensation suit that was placed in a Medicare set-aside account (MSA) was considered to be net proceeds, just as his initial workers’ compensation settlement was considered to be; therefore his wife was entitled to a portion of those proceeds also.

MSA funds are usually reserved to pay future medical costs. Under the federal rules, Medicare pays only after the insurance company has paid and, in the case of Workers’ Compensation, Mr. Washkowiak had followed the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) suggested guidelines and placed a portion in a bank account restricted to paying medical bills. While the Court found in favor of the wife on the appeal, one judge dissented claiming the funds were set aside only for the purpose of satisfying Medicare’s interest.

It is important to consult with an attorney when dealing with Workers’ Compensation claims as even simply claims and settlements may have unforeseen consequences.