Westchester attorney says court holds 911 award is not marital property to be divided in divorce

A recent decision by the Appellate Division Second Department has made it clear that firefighters who risked all get to keep it all.  Let me explain.  In the case of Howe v. Howe, a veteran firefighter who was forced to retire from the department following disabling injuries he sustained during 911 is entitled to keep all of the award he received from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  The court’s reasoning, pursuant to New York’s Equitable Distribution Law, Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(1)(d)(2), stated the award is the equivalent of a recovery in a personal injury action, the noneconomic portion of which clearly falls within the category of separate property.  So, while a spouse may be entitled to a portion of a pension plan or deferred compensation, it would now seem that an award from the Victim’s Compensation Fund belongs solely to the person who risked it all that day.