You’re bored at work one day and you get a social media ad for lottery tickets. You decide you might as well play, you buy the tickets and you don’t think about them again until the drawing. Then you check your numbers and you’re stunned to see that you won.
You have been wanting to get divorced for some time, but you never felt financially stable without your spouse. Now that you have your winnings on the way, though, you decide it’s finally time to end your marriage. But wait. Are those winnings considered marital property, meaning you’ll have to divide them with your spouse?
Generally speaking, they are. It’s the same with any other property you acquired while you were married. You may have technically bought the ticket, but you used marital money to buy it and you were still married at the time of both the purchase and the winning number being drawn. Your spouse can make a valid claim during the asset division process.
People have tried to withhold lottery winnings in the past, typically just by refusing to tell anyone that they won. However, this is illegal since divorce requires full disclosure of financial assets. Hiding those assets goes against this mandate.
The one slightly gray area is if you filed for divorce but had not completed the process yet when you won. That may be considered separate property, especially if the two of you were not living together and the divorce was clearly not motivated by the win.
Depending on the size of your winnings, this case could get very complicated, and you need to be well aware of your legal options.