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Man must pay half of lottery winnings to former spouse

9394125_S.jpgWhen people in Missouri get a divorce, they may wonder how they will be expected to divide property with a spouse. A man in Michigan who won an $80 million lottery jackpot in 2013 after two years of separation from his wife was ordered to pay her half of his winnings as part of the divorce settlement. After taxes, the man took home more than $38 million.

An arbitrator informed the man that he had to split the winnings with his spouse. The man's attorney filed an appeal, but the court agreed with the arbitrator. In the arbitrator's judgment, these winnings constituted part of the shared assets. He also argued that it was probably not the first time the man had bought a lottery ticket. The man's attorney argued that it was the man's luck and not the luck of his wife that resulted in the winnings.

The appeals court found no errors in the case. The man's attorney said he had filed a reconsideration motion and that they would go to the Michigan Supreme Court if the reconsideration was denied. The attorney said it was very unusual for an equal split of property to occur after a long separation and after arbitration had concluded. The couple's divorce was finalized in 2018.

Neither Michigan nor Missouri are community property states, which would mean all marital assets should be divided 50/50. They are both equitable distribution states, but as this case demonstrates, this may still mean that a person may be ordered to split some property in half. This case also demonstrates the potential disadvantage of having a judge or an arbitrator decide on property division instead of negotiating an agreement. However, in some cases, a couple may be unable to reach an agreement, and turning to a third party might be necessary.

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