Why A Windfall Can Be a Two Edged Sword for Separating Couples

Posted on: 21 February 2017


Money can often be at the root of arguments between couples. In many cases, it can be the basis for separation and can lead to significant dispute through the legal system, in order to try and decide "who gets what." While this type of procedure can be long-winded and complicated just by itself, the waters can be muddied even more when some kind of windfall comes into the picture. How does the legal system view this and what do you need to know?

Who Gets the Lotto?

Many people like to play the lotto on a regular basis, no doubt attracted by the enormous prizes available. While only a tiny percentage of people will ever be successful, if you happen to be one of these and you're going through some significant issues with your partner, complications can arise.

The View of the Court

The family court in Australia has experience of dealing with just such a situation and in general views a windfall like this as being of value to both parties. This type of decision can be delivered whether or not the parties in question maintain their own, separate financial accounts. Some couples decide as a matter of principle to go through their lives like this and never, essentially, co-mingle the money. However, the family court views the entirety of the matrimonial assets and how both parties materially contribute to acquiring or to improving them.

Even though the other partner may not have technically been an owner of the money used by the ticket, the court still views it as a joint contribution. Consequently, the lotto win becomes something that must be shared equally between both.

Changing Circumstances

Much will, however, depend on the exact living arrangements of the two people at the moment when the lottery win occurred. If they are still technically married, but have been living apart for some time, then that will certainly modify the view of the court. It would be deemed that the relationship was over in terms of sharing the matrimonial assets, and the prizewinner would probably get to retain all of those assets.

Getting Advice

The family courts will always assess the situation as of the date of the trial and not necessarily as of the date of separation. It may be advantageous, therefore, for both parties to reach an agreement before any litigation gets to court. In any case, it's very advisable for parties to get legal counsel from a family lawyer from a firm like Alexanders Lawyers before any decisions are made.