I would strongly recommend that you follow the advice you received and file for divorce prior to concluding the settlement.
If the award or settlement is still questionable at the time when you file the summons and complaint, you may maintain that the recovery was not assured and therefore did not exist prior to the date of the filing of the summons and complaint ,which is the cutoff point for determining marital property.
If you receive the settlement payment before you file the summons and complaint, it will most likely become marital property and be subject to equitable distribution.
If you are located in the New York City area, I strongly suggest you call me at 212-370-1660 to discuss mediating this matter and your divorce and resolving them out of court.
Leonard M. Weiner, Esq./Divorce Solutions