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Multi-Million Dollar Lottery Win Tainted by Unofficial Divorce

In a previous post we discussed ways that a couple can make property division during divorce proceedings go more smoothly. That can include making sure the monetary worth of all items is accurate and using tax returns to determine the worth of individual and joint investments.

But sometimes, a couple that has separated is faced with unexpected circumstances in regards to property division. For one woman, she may have to give up $45 million dollars to her estranged husband. How did this happen?

The man and woman, both from Idaho, were married ten years ago. During their marriage, the two went through a few rough patches that resulted in both of them facing battery charges. They two decided to separate a few years later.

The woman apparently purchased a lottery ticket for the state's Mega Millions lottery drawing last week. Much to her surprise and delight, she won half of the $380 million dollar prize, meaning roughly $90 million after taxes.

But according to state community property law, the woman may have to split the winnings with her husband because the two of them never officially divorced. Generally, states can differ on laws for dividing property obtained before, during and after a marriage. For example, in another state the woman may be able to keep all her winnings even though she hadn't legally divorced her husband.

No doubt the prospect of having to give her estranged husband $45 million frustrated the woman; she left with her two children to unknown whereabouts. The article does not mention whether the husband has responded, but it is likely that he will fight for half of the money.

Source: USA Today online, "Lottery winner may have to split it with estranged husband," Douglas Stanglin, 18 January 2011

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