TREATMENT OF LOTTERY WINNINGS IN A DIVORCE19th Apr 2012
The case of S v AG was recently decided in the Family Division of the High Court. The dispute was over the wife's £500,000 lottery winnings, which the husband wanted to claim a share of.
The couple were Colombian, but had lived in England for 20 years. They had been married since 1984, and separated in January 2004. By all accounts, the relationship had been in difficulty for many years leading up to the separation, but they did not divorce earlier for the sake of their two children. They divorced in Colombia in 2006, and the husband applied for financial relief here in 2010 under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.
In January 2000 the wife won £500,000, which was her share of winnings from a lottery syndicate. In May of the same year, she spent £275,000 on a home for the whole family, plus £25,000 on purchase costs and a further £90,000 to renovate the property. The house is now worth £500,000.
The judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, decided that the lottery winnings should be classed as 'non-matrimonial property' which the husband would not normally have any right to, since the wife used her own money to enter the lottery and the husband was unaware that she had done so.
However, because she had used part of her winnings to buy a family home, that money then became 'matrimonial property', which the husband could claim a share of in the financial settlement. After considering the source of the money, and the length of time that the husband lived in the house, the judge awarded him £85,000.
This is not the first time that lottery prizes have been looked at in the context of a divorce. Last year a EuroMillions winner was ordered to give his ex wife part of his £56 million prize fund. In a less acrimonious case, a bus driver won £2 million just 4 months after his divorce was finalised, but said that he would give his ex wife a share of the money anyway.
This most recent case should give divorcing couples who play the lottery something to think about, other than what numbers to choose!