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Divorced man told to share lottery winnings with ex-spouse

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2019 | Property Division

A Michigan appeals court has just ruled that marriage is a “share and share alike” situation until the divorce is final. For one resident, that means that he’s obligated to split the proceeds of an $80 million lottery ticket that he bought while living apart from his wife.

The couple married in 2004, but wedded bliss was short. They separated, and each filed for divorce in 2011 in a contentious case that continued to drag on until 2018. However, in 2013, the husband bought a lottery ticket. It was a winner.

However, the ticket sat forgotten in his wallet for months before he realized his luck. In that time, he failed to pay the child support he owed.

When the husband finally noticed his win, he didn’t want to share. However, an arbitrator ruled in 2014 that the lottery winnings — just like the husband’s past gambling losses — were all part of the marital estate. The husband appealed, claiming, among other things, that the arbitrator was biased. The appellate court disagreed.

The man had reportedly long been a chronic gambler. His wife had been the primary wage earner in the household for the duration of their marriage.

While it might seem that there’s plenty of spare money to go around, the husband is adamant in his desire to avoid sharing the wealth. He’s already filed another appeal. If necessary, he says that he will take the issue all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Cases like this illustrate how complex property division issues can arise at any time during a marriage. Timing is just about everything when it comes to what counts as separate property versus marital assets.