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Divorce and Separation

Can you keep your lottery win?

In a recent case [Eufrosin & Eufrosin] the Family Court of Australia looked into the question of how to divide matrimonial property when one party had a gambling “windfall” after separation but before the property settlement had been finalised.

The couple involved separated after a 20 year long marriage. About 6 months after they separated the wife purchased a lottery ticket and won $6 million!.

On learning of his wife’s luccy windfall, during the property settlement negotiations the husband argued that the winning ticket was purchased out of “joint funds” from the marriage and so the winnings should be included as “joint property” in any financial settlement.

The husband also argued that throughout their 20 year relationship the wife had always spent about $25.00 per week to purchase weekly lottery tickets.  The husband argued that this long standing custom heightened the wife’s chances of winning a major prize.

In response, the wife gave evidence that after the separation she was worried about her finances and spoke to her sister about her current predicament.  The sister then started to give the wife $20-$30 per week to help financially and urged her to purchase lottery tickets using her “players card” which had their father’s ‘lucky word’ on it.

After hearing all of the evidence the Court decided that the winning ticket was purchased in the sister’s name using her ‘players card’ and possibly with money provided wholly or in part by her.  The Court concluded that the wife and her sister had an agreement to purchase weekly tickets from joint funds and to share any winnings between them.

Accordingly, the Family Court found that the husband had made no contribution to the purchase of the winning lottery ticket and so the winning lottery ticket was dealt with as being separate from the joint matrimonial funds of the parties.

The Family Court did, however, award the husband an extra $500,000 in the final property settlement noting that the wife now had a greater financial resource at her disposal and the husband, at 62 years of age, had limited future working capacity.

The moral of this story is that despite separation, if a financial settlement severing all financial ties between a husband and wife has not yet occurred, then any future ‘windfall’ may be taken into account as an extra financial resource available to the winning party.  It is therefore important to finalise any settlement of property as early as possible after separating.

You should always get expert advice from an experienced family lawyer to know where you stand and to assist you to try and negotiate your family law property settlement.

For a free no obligation chat, call Kim Lawson at Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699.

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