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Lottery Winnings Post Separation – Do I get to keep it?

The recent judgement in Eufrosin & Eufrosin [2014] FamCAFC 191 of the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia considered the situation where one party had a win in the lottery after separation but before property proceedings were finalised.

The parties were married in 1987 and separated in 2008. There were two children of the marriage who were both adults at the time of the trial which occurred in 2012.

The trial judge placed the assets in two pools. The first pool was the assets of the marriage and had a net value of $2,437,987. The second pool was assets derived from the wife’s lottery win and had a net value of 3,368,530.

The trial judge divided the first pool of assets evenly between the parties. With the second pool Her Honour found the husband had made no contribution to the assets, however allocated $500,000 to him as a result of his future needs or Section 75(2) factors. The specific factors identified were the significant disparity in the parties’ financial circumstances, the husband’s age (62) and therefore his limited future working life.

The husband appealed, on the basis that the ticket would have been purchased from joint funds and therefore he did make a contribution. The trial Judge had found the funds for the ticket were from the wife’s sister, however the Full Court did not consider the source of the funds to be as relevant as the Trial Judge.

The Full Court referred to the High Court of Australia’s decision in Stanford v Stanford and said that the key issue is whether the parties were leading joint or separate lives and whether there is common use of property. This reinforced the view in Zyk and Zyk which said the source of funds should not determine the issue.

The Full Court dismissed the husband’s appeal as when the wife purchased the lottery ticket, 6 months after separation, the joint endeavour that had been the parties’ marriage had been dissolved; there was no longer a “common use” of property… and … they were applying funds for their respective individual purposes.

While this judgement makes clear how contributions will be assessed for a post separation lottery win, the presence of future needs where the lottery win creates a significant financial disparity between the parties, means there may be an allocation to the other party.

The Full Court also confirmed that a lottery win during the marriage, in the ordinary course of things, is of course an asset of the marriage and not a contribution by one party.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers

 

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