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Divorce, NFL Football & CTE

Question: I know your law firm does a lot of legal work for former professional athletes and their wives. My husband played in the NFL for about 8 seasons. He played at a major football university and then went on to play in the NFL. He wasn't actually drafted out of college but was signed as a free agent. He had a nice career although he never made the Pro Bowl, which was something he always wanted to do.

We're considering getting a divorce for a lot of reasons. But I'm actually concerned about getting some of the money that he might get awarded from the NFL because of his brain issues. He had a lot of concussions when he played and he is trying to get money from the league because he now has serious memory loss and massive headaches. He was diagnosed with CTE by a doctor.

He made some good money playing football but he doesn't have much left. He thinks that he will get some money from the NFL to help with his brain issues. I need to know that if we get divorced, and then he gets money from the NFL, will I be entitled to some of it. We have been married for 15 years and I haven't worked at a job since community college. I think I will need some money to live on and I want to go back to school.

We live in Alpharetta and we have a child who attends Alpharetta High School.

Answer: We are quite familiar with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). A progressive degenerative disease, CTE has become a major issue for many former NFL players. Major media outlets have featured stories on the disease over the past several years, often depicting former players and their families who are tremendously suffering due to its effects.

Some former players who are confirmed to have had CTE or are believed to be afflicted include: Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Jim McMahon, Tony Dorsett and Brett Favre. When handling legal matters for former NFL players CTE and concussion questions often arise.

As for your question, if you get divorced and your former husband gets a monetary settlement for CTE, then you would not be entitled to share in it. Even if you stay married and during the marriage there is a settlement, and then you get divorced, you probably won't partake in that settlement because most of the time a negligence settlement does not become marital property (there can be exceptions, however). It is unlikely that any CTE settlement will involve compensation for a spouse of a player, although we understand the great sacrifices a spouse must often make to provide care for a husband with CTE.

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