Is It Legal To Keep All Your Lottery Winnings If You Separate From Your Spouse?

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So you've won the Powerball. You and your spouse are overjoyed. Unfortunately, money can't save your marriage and you decide to separate a few years later. Perhaps it ends bitterly. So what happens to all the money that you've won? You bought the winning lottery ticket, so can you keep all of the remaining money? Let's find out.

When it comes to division of assets after a marriage or an equivalent relationship arrangement such as de facto, disputes usually go through the Family Court of Australia.

According to law firm Slater & Gordon, historically the Family Court favours a 50-50 split of lottery winnings won during marriage. That's because, generally speaking, financial responsibilities are shared between both parties. Many couples also have joint savings accounts.

The lottery winnings could be considered to have come from the shared joint income of both parties and would have been used for joint purposes; therefore, the lottery winnings could be treated as a joint contribution.

But a case last year regarding the division of lottery winnings that went through the Full Court of the Family Court has surprised legal experts. The wife of a lottery winner was denied the right to get half of her husband's winnings after they separated. According to Slater & Gordon:

In [the Elford &Elford (2016) case], the Court dismissed the wife’s appeal that she was entitled to a greater share of the property pool, which consisted mainly of lottery winnings. The Court upheld the trial judge’s decision that the winnings were not a ‘joint endeavour’ but rather that the husband had made the sole contribution to the winnings.

That case was different because the husband and wife kept their individual financials separate even after they were married. The husband won over $620,000 in one of his weekly lottery ticket purchases and kept it all in his own bank account. The wife did not contribute to the purchase of the ticket nor did she have a hand in picking the winning numbers:

The Court found that the husband never intended the weekly purchase of a lottery ticket to be for a ‘joint matrimonial purpose’ and said that the husband did not ‘hand all his money to his wife; nor did she have the practical control of the family finances’.

The Court therefore concluded that it was appropriate to treat the husband’s lottery winnings as a contribution by him alone.

Slater & Gordon notes that the Elford & Elford case was unusual given how many couples pool their finances; the extreme financial separation involved in the case is a rarity. The couple didn't even have a separate joint bank account.

So if you do win the Powerball and have shared finances with your spouse, chances are you will have to share the winnings with them if you both go your separate ways.

You can read up on all the previous instalments of Is It Legal? here.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


Comments

    The Court found that the husband never intended the weekly purchase of a lottery ticket to be for a ‘joint matrimonial purpose’ And the marriage didn't last? What a surprise.

      That she tried fooling the court that she was entitled to half of it - even less of a surprise.

      Yeah, it does sound somewhat dickish, but who knows, maybe she vehemently told her husband he was dumb to play the lottery previously and she wants no part in it? Husband says ok i'll just buy it with my play money honey and you'll get none when i win na na ;-P

      The marriage sounds very business like anyway with all the separate accounts, none being joined. I guess they had weekly meetings to discuss the water bill?


    Is this a "Real Story?" I Understand the Interest an Article Like This Might Generate...However, I Can Think of Several Reasons it Would Result in a Different Outcome, in Her Favor.
    I Think the 'Wife' Should Take a Closer Look @ Her Attorney & He/She Should've Been Investigated for Fraud.
    I Smell a: Ra...I mean a Ra-t...I Mean..a Traitor. A Rat Traitor. Anyone who Hires an Attorney to Dispute the Division of Lottery Winnings that were Won While They Were Still Legally Married, and, Living as Husband & Wife- Should Think Long, and Hard about Who They Hire. She Needs to Sue Her Attorney Citing Damages for: Emotional Bullshit, Lost Wages, and a Great Big, Humongous, Gigantic Pile of- Nope(!) for Pulling off the Ole Switcheroo Scheme with Her 'Husband.' Since When Does The "Evidence" in this Case Prove, or even Suggest that She's Not Entitled to HALF of the Lottery Winnings?
    Okay, so they have Separate Bank Accounts. Big Deal. He Purchased a Ticket -Supposedly Using Money He Obtained from His Bank Account. Okay...Still, So What? What does that Prove? Let's Just Say: for the Sake of a Hypothetical ...The Husband DID Buy the Ticket with the Money From His Account....How Does That Eliminate Her from being an Equal, Eligible, Entitled Owner of 50% of the Winnings if They Were (Actively Married) at the Time!?
    -Here's an Idea: Somebody Show Me Evidence that Can Prove Otherwise, Without a Reasonable Doubt -that They (Did Not) Have An Existing Agreement, or an Established Arrangement, in Advance, Prior to Purchasing the Winning Ticket...that Would've Allowed Him to Have the Means to Afford Their Combined Household Entertainemnt Expenses, in This Case, a Winning Lottery Ticket, (BECAUSE) SHE Was Responsible for a Specific Bill that Was Agreed Upon, Between the Two of Them, Paid (By Her), Using Funds from Her Account!?! So in Theory: The Husband Would Not Have Been Able to Purchase the Lottery Ticket had He Been Responsible for Paying Half of the Bill that the Wife Paid in Full. Had he Paid Half the Bill, the Wife Could Have Paid for Half the Ticket. Who's to Say, How's it Proven, that THAT isn't What Happened, and then -Conveniently ...Her -Low Down, Money Grubbin' Husband Gets a Shady Idea & Decides to Give it a Whirl Since He Knows it Has at Least a Twinge of Potential Thanks to the Two of Them Having Separate Bank Accounts.
    I Guess He Wanted to Give Her the D, One Last Time. What a Moral Compass. Hmm, I Wonder Why They Got Divorced?
    P.S...Fire Your Attorney

      Jackie Bennett......are you the unhappy wife in the court case?

      "That case was different because the husband and wife kept their individual financials separate even after they were married."

      It sounds to me like they quite strictly kept their finances separate and paid bills in an equal manner (even if they each paid particular bills as previously discussed amongst themselves) which i'm sure bank records would show to their lawyers and the Judge.

      It is entirely possible he bought the ticket with his personal 'play money' as the article suggests. I'm sure it would be a more complicated scenario if they had large shared assets, like a house, had previously paid of loans for each other etc but that doesn't seem to be the case.

      "SHE Was Responsible for a Specific Bill that Was Agreed Upon, Between the Two of Them, Paid (By Her), Using Funds from Her Account!?! So in Theory: The Husband Would Not Have Been Able to Purchase the Lottery Ticket had He Been Responsible for Paying Half of the Bill that the Wife Paid in Full. Had he Paid Half the Bill, the Wife Could Have Paid for Half the Ticket."

      So if she is responsible for a specific single bill etc, wouldn't he also be paying for a specific agreed upon bill, putting them on an agreed upon footing. Or are you propping up your argument on the suggestion he shirked paying his half of a bill (perhaps she had something to do with it being abnormally high then?), so she paid it, and would have gone halfsies in the ticket but didn't have the money? Which i'm sure we'd be hearing in the article if that was the case, that she normally goes half in a ticket with her husband, or that the understanding was he was buying it for the both of them, which again would make the case a more standard 'he said she said' instead of 'all finance were separate and he bought it with his disposable income'.

      Jackie you seem to be making a alot of assumptions in your comment. I'm sure the courts and attorneys would have looked all of this up including looking into the bank, bill and rent record of the couple. Each must have paid half of everything or had an agreement to pay certain bills/food/rent using solely thier own money. Effectively they seem to have been living as the equivalent of housemates whilst married.

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