What happens when you are separated and you win Lotto? Most people assume that the winnings all belong to them. Unfortunately it is not that simple and there have been a few cases before the Family Court involving Lotto winnings with the most recent case being Eufrosin & Eufrosin .
The husband and wife were married for 20 years and had been separated for almost five years and divorced for four years. There had been no intermingling of their finances for most of the period of separation but they had not had property settlement orders made.
The wife gave evidence that she began to buy lottery tickets before her marriage and purchased tickets each week using a player’s card in her name. Following the parties’ separation the wife frequently discussed her financial position and her worries about her financial future with her sister. The sister regularly provided the wife with $20 to $50 per week to assist her financially. After one such discussion, the sister let the wife use her gaming card for luck. The sister gave the wife the gaming card with $20 and said: “This is for you. You can use some for the ticket. I will give you some money every week.” If we win anything I expect to get something to help me pay off my mortgage.”
The wife purchased the winning ticket using her sister’s player’s card and won $6 million. The wife maintained that she had agreed to give her sister $1 million.
After finding out about the wife’s winnings the husband sought an order that the winnings form an asset of the marriage and therefore included in the matrimonial pool and that the $1 million “gifted” to the wife’s sister be added back. The husband argued that the wife had purchased the winning ticket using funds from a family company.
Justice Stephenson of the Family Court adopted a two-pool approach. One pool represented the assets of the parties as at the date of separation and the second pool representing the wife’s winnings. Her Honour did not add back the $1 million on the basis that the winning ticket was purchased with the sister’s player’s card and was effectively purchased in the sister’s name and possibly with the money given to the wife by her sister. Her Honour found that the husband had made no contribution to the purchase price of the winning gambling ticket.
However under section 75(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 often referred to as “future needs factors” the Judge awarded the husband $500,000 from the second “windfall” pool on the basis of the husband being 62 years old his limited future working life and his future needs.
Each case in family law is decided on its own facts and merits and there is no set mathematical formula on how property is to be divided. It is important that when parties separate that they obtain independent legal advice regarding their property settlement and finalise their property within a reasonable time. Separating and then doing nothing in relation to your property for years into the future leaves parties vulnerable if on the one hand one spouse receives a windfall and the other spouse experiences financial loss.