Timing is Everything

Attorney-Husband has a lucrative class-action personal injury litigation practice.

Husband and Wife have millions of dollars in assets.

Husband has been working on a particular case for the last several years of Husband’s marriage to Wife.

Wife files for divorce from Attorney-Husband.

After Wife files for divorce, but before final judgment, Husband receives a multi-million dollar attorney’s fee in the above class action lawsuit.

The multi-million dollar question: does Husband get to keep his entire fee? Or does Wife get a share of it?

The Tennessee trial court rules that the attorney’s fee is marital property of both Husband and Wife … and awards forty (40%) percent of the fee to Wife.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Tennessee affirms the trial court’s classification of the attorney’s fee as marital property and upholds the trial court’s division of the fee.

(Note: different states define marital property differently, and Florida’s statutory definition differs from Tennessee’s.)

Read more in this Business Insider Law Review article: Tennesee Class-Action Lawyer Must Pay $6.8 Million Of Post-Divorce Payday and this ABA Journal Law News Now article: Tenn. High Court’s Divorce Ruling Costs Class Action Lawyer $6.8M.