What If a Person Sued for Child Sex Abuse Doesn’t Have Much Money? How Can They Afford to Try the Case or Settle It?

How Can You Defend Yourself in a Child Sex Abuse Case if You Don't Have Much Money?

Judgments for childhood sexual abuse can award a little money or a great deal of money. Every case is different. If the abuse was especially invasive (say, sexual intercourse) and happened many times, the award can be more than a million dollars.

But suppose the abuser doesn’t have as much money as a court is likely to award. This is quite often the situation. If the case goes to trial and judgment is against the defendant, the defendant must turn over everything he has except certain assets the law allows him to keep.

Washington law provides a homestead exemption of $125,000. This means a defendant gets to keep $125,000 of home equity even if that means the full judgment is not paid. If the only way to get the rest of the equity out of the home for the plaintiff is to sell the home, then the home must be sold.

But a defendant can often preserve more assets by negotiating a settlement. A plaintiff will often settle for less than a court might award in a judgment. This is because a settlement avoids trial; trial involves work, expense, delay, and the risk of losing.

One reason the plaintiff will usually add a church, school, or other institution as a defendant—if any institution might be found liable—is that most institutions are able to pay large damages awards.

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