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Property division ruling means half of show winnings for wife

As we’ve seen in prior posts, the issue of property division is a source of contention for many separating couples. It can be complicated and frustrating trying to decide what property goes to which spouse. But in some instances, it is almost just as important to determine when the property was acquired.

States differ on how property is distributed. But typically property that is acquired during the marriage is subject to be distributed according to each state’s law upon a divorce. But what if the property was acquired while a divorce was pending? Is it separate property or marital property?

Just last week, the story of a couple in the middle of a divorce was in the news because of their interesting property division dispute. The wife had filed for divorce in 2008. However, the two did not officially divorce, even citing reconciliation in 2009. While that may not seem like an important detail, it is the main reason that nearly $50,000 will be split equally between the two.

In 2009, the husband went on the game show “Wheel of Fortune” and won over $50,000. He had been encouraged by his wife to go on the show. At this time, the divorce had been filed but the two had reconciled, apparently with no intent at that point to continue with the divorce.

But the reconciliation did not last and the two separated again, with intent to continue with their marriage dissolution. But when the issue of the game show money came up, the wife claimed that it should be considered marital property while the husband argued that he won the money while the two were in the middle of divorce proceedings.

The issue went before a judge last week who heard testimony from several people about whether the winnings should be considered marital or separate property. Ultimately he decided that because the couple was back together when the game show occurred, the property would be considered marital property. The fact that the two had already filed for divorce did not matter.

Source: Seattle Times online, “‘Wheel of Fortune’ jackpot split 50-50 in divorce,” Laura McVicker, 26 May 2011


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