If I win Tatts Lotto, do I have to share the winnings with my ex spouse?

10 December 2014

This question sometimes arises in family law property settlement cases - and the answer will depend on the exact circumstances.  As is usual in family law cases, there are many possible scenarios and many different possible results.  Let’s consider a few examples.

If, during the course of a marriage, the Wife regularly buys lotto tickets (even if her Husband does not know about it or doesn’t approve) and she ends up winning five million dollars, then the winnings would certainly be included in the pool of assets to be divided between the husband and the wife on the usual family law principles.  The win would be considered to be a windfall and the Wife could not claim that it should be all hers because she bought the ticket.  Nor could she claim that she had the greater entitlement to it just because she bought the ticket.

Let’s change the above scenario a little bit and let’s say that the Wife bought the winning ticket after Husband and Wife had been separated for six months but before any property settlement was finalised between them. This actually happened in a case decided by the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia on Appeal this year (the case of Eufrosin v Eufrosin).  Let’s say it took another year for the case to get to the final hearing stage and by that time, the Wife had spent or given away one and a half million dollars of the winnings, leaving a balance of $3.4 million.  In such a case, the court would have to consider the assets available for division at the time of hearing- that is the $3.4 million plus the other assets of the marriage which amounted to another $2.5 million.  In this case, a very long marriage, with the parties approaching retirement age, the Court found that the contributions of the parties to the assets of the marriage (excluding the lottery winnings) were equal and divided those assets equally with each party being entitled to $2.5 million.  It then separately considered the $3.4 million in lottery winnings.  The Wife’s lawyer argued that the winnings should be all hers as the Husband made no contribution to the winning ticket.  The Husband’s lawyer argued that the winning ticket had been purchased using “joint funds” and, thus, he had contributed to the winnings which should be divided equally.  The Court did not accept either of these extremes, finding that the parties had put in place a system where each made regular withdrawals from the former joint asset, and he/she each used such withdrawals individually- the winnings were not as a result of a “joint enterprise”.  However, the Court found that it was not just and equitable for the Wife to keep the entire lotto winnings as it needs to take into account the current financial circumstances and future needs of the parties.  So, the Court ordered that the Husband should receive $500,000 from the lotto win and the wife keep the balance of $2,900,000 for herself- thus dividing the winnings in the proportions of 85% to the Wife and 15% to the Husband.

So as to reassure people who are divorced and already have a legally recognised property settlement in place by way of Final Court Orders or a Financial Agreement, your spouse would not be entitled to share in any of your subsequent winnings in those circumstances!

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