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Lottery winnings and marital break-ups: but it’s my winnings not ours!

Lottery winnings and marital break-ups:      but it’s my winnings not ours!

So you think you knew. Well, pre conceived ideas about how property settlements work need to be put to one side and you need to consider the following.

In a recent Family law property case of Elford v Elford [2016] FamCAFC 45, the Court ruled that the husband could keep the winnings of a Tattslotto ticket that he obtained twelve months into the marriage and it decided this based on:

  • Who had purchased the winning ticket;
  • Who had chosen the winning numbers;
  • Where the winnings were deposited; and
  • The degree to which the parties’ finances had been intermingled during the relationship.

So it’s not enough to simply say that because you are in a relationship then one party’s lottery win means it’s a “joint win”. The fact of being in a marriage or a relationship alone is not sufficient grounds to claim it as a joint contribution and a joint win. The above factors need to be examined and assessed against evidence to see who bought the ticket, separate finances etc. Of course this is a unique case because the husband had been playing the same numbers for 12 years prior to the marriage and had proof he paid for the ticket and when he won the money he deposited it in his sole account. But the difference here is that their finances were kept separate and this was their intention, so at the final property settlement it was treated this way.

What does this mean for me? Well, if you are married or in a de facto relationship and you want to keep finances separate or agree to any other arrangement, the best option is to formalise your intentions in the form of a binding financial agreement before or during a marriage. Keep things documented so there is proof in the event of separation.

The decision not to award the wife any of the lottery winnings may be of surprise to people, including family lawyers, but each case rests on its facts and must be assessed separately.

If you need to get some advice on how to protect assets or what entitlement you may have to any assets in the event of a relationship breakdown please call us on 1300 936 529 for an obligation free chat.