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Lottery winnings are marital property, judge rules

Texas residents must be concerned about property settlements during a divorce. That concern is highlighted even more whenever one spouse suddenly comes into a significant amount of money. An arbitrator in Michigan recently ruled that a man must pay his wife nearly $15 million after he won more than double that while playing the lottery. The man was left with nearly $39 million after taxes and deductions, leaving his wife with slightly less than half of his landfall.

The couple had been separated for approximately two years when the man won his jackpot. Even so, the arbitrator in the case ruled that the winnings were marital property despite having been earned after the spouses had separated. The husband's lawyer had argued against splitting the money during the divorce settlement. He claimed it was his client's luck and not that of his wife that resulted in the lottery winnings.

The arbitrator in the case disagreed, and the husband appealed. An appeals court judge later held up the arbitrator's decision. In this case, lottery winnings were treated as marital property, despite having been won long after the spouses had separated. The couple separated in 2011, but their divorce was not finalized until 2018.

While the husband was forced to pay nearly half of his winnings, the amount might have been even larger if he had not retained legal counsel. When significant amounts of cash or other property are at stake, those considering a divorce may speak with a knowledgeable divorce attorney. Along with providing advice on child support, child custody, and other divorce legal issues, a family law attorney might also guide their clients on issues related to property division.

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