Did you know that sometimes Lottery Winnings are Exempt from a Matrimonial Property Settlement?
One of the most common questions asked by clients is “what am I entitled to?". Unfortunately, without a detailed examination of the relationship, this is not something that we can answer, as it differs for every client.
Take Lotto winnings for example. Many people would agree that if a couple won the Lottery early in their relationship and those winnings were still in existence at the end of a ten year relationship, that it would be just and equitable for both parties to share those winnings in a property settlement. This is a question the Family Court had to consider in a recent case.
In this case, the Husband’s initial financial contributions were four times greater than the Wife’s. Shortly after they started living together, the husband won $622,842.00 in TattsLotto. The Husband had paid for the ticket out of his own funds and had chosen the numbers. He had been playing these numbers for ten years prior to the relationship commencing. The Husband deposited the funds into a Term Deposit. By the end of the relationship, this had grown to $960,000.00, with a total net asset pool of $1,403,091.00.
What distinguishes this case from most others however is that the couple had kept their finances completely separate throughout the relationship. Further, they never acquired any joint assets during the relationship.
When the matter was litigated, the Wife sought to include the Lottery winnings in the asset pool available for division and claimed that she was entitled to share in the winnings due to the length of the relationship and her role as carer for the Husband after he had a stroke. The Husband argued that while the Lottery winnings do form part of the net asset pool, the Wife did not contribute to the process of winning the monies in any way and therefore should not be entitled to share in the winnings.
The Judge said:“it is not only the nature of the parties’ relationship at the time the lottery ticket was purchased that sets this case apart from so may of the decided “lottery winnings” cases; it is also the manner in which the Husband and the Wife conducted their financial affairs after those winnings were received by the Husband in 2004. Those winnings were placed into an account in the Husband’s sole name and that is where they remained to this day. The parties also kept all their other finances separate for the entirety of their relationship”.
When the matter was before the Courts, the Husband was 69 years of age and very ill, requiring very expensive ongoing medical treatment. The Wife was 47 years of age and in good health. Both parties had adult children and the Wife was employed full time.
Ultimately, the Judge found that it was not just and equitable to award the Wife a portion of the winnings. Based on the level of contributions made by the parties, it was held that the Wife was only entitled to 20% of the total assets available for division. As such, of the $1.4 million property pool, the wife was awarded $51,000.00.
As you can see, property settlements are complex and require a very thorough examination of the relationship. For this reason, we recommend discussing your matter with us.
At Fedorov Lawyers, our team are experts when it comes to property settlements and all other aspects of Family Law. If you have recently separated or are thinking of separating from your partner, talk to our expert team on 07 5667 2970 to ensure you receive the right advice.
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