Residents of New Jersey and other states are watching a unique legal dispute, thought to be the first of its type, unfold in Texas. Life fell apart for a family after the husband was accused of a number of sex crimes more than three decades ago. His wife contended he couldn’t be guilty of the crimes, but he eventually pled guilty to another charge as she tried to keep their marriage and family together. She visited him while he was incarcerated and supported him, but eventually, he told her to file for divorce.
After he spent two dozen years in custody, DNA tests proved he was innocent, and the courts released him. He received a lump sum payment of more than $2 million and monthly payments of $11,000 worth a total of almost $6 million. In addition, he can also receive education and medical benefits. His ex-wife contended that she should receive some of that settlement. In 2012, after the inmate’s former wife filed a lawsuit against him, the courts gave her about $150,000. She said that she was included in the wrongful justice perpetrated against him. However, he is appealing the verdict, and the case is expected to reach the Texas Supreme Court.
When Texas lawmakers drafted the law granting an exonerated person financial compensation, they didn’t consider the rights of former spouses who divorced them during the unjust incarceration. The freed man said he wasn’t angry as another ex-wife is also seeking child support from him, and expensive legal battles are quickly draining his funds. However, he doesn’t believe that the money should be part of community property consideration.
While the state has agreed that wrongfully incarcerated prisoners deserve compensation, they have not made a decision about any monies due the family. A divorce attorney might be able to help unravel the complicated legal matter.
Source: The Monitor, “Exoneree faces ex-wife in compensation lawsuit“, Brandi Grissom, June 18, 2013