Lottery winnings, divorce and marriage

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2021 | Divorce |

Many people throughout the U.S. play the lottery in hopes of hitting it big. In most marriages, when this happens the spouses share the winnings as they would wages, inheritance and other forms of income.

In the case of a lottery windfall during a separation or a divorce, a dispute could arise over how much, if any, of these winnings would go to the spouse.

Court rules husband must split large jackpot

The Washington Post reported that a husband, in the middle of divorce proceedings, had to split his $80 million jackpot with his former wife. A complicated timeline made the issue not as clear-cut as some asset issues.  The couple, who married in 2004, filed for divorce in 2011. However, the finalization of the divorce did not occur until 2018. The husband won the lottery in 2013.

A series of decisions claimed that the lottery winnings belonged to the marital estate and required equitable distribution. The husband filed several appeals. Eventually, the case went to the Michigan appeals court where a three-judge panel ruled in 2019 that the husband must share the winnings with his former spouse.

Lottery winnings demand responsible actions

Forbes reports that coming into a large amount of money in the lottery or elsewhere requires smart decisions. In fact, a large number of lottery winners wind up broke in a few years.

Advice for married couples who come into a windfall start with sharing financial decisions. One strategy is to discuss all major expenditures and institute a voting system. Anything less than two yes votes means the proposal does not pass.  Couples should also not put so many restraints on spending that they do not enjoy their winnings.