The Winner Takes It All – Married Life and Lottery Winnings – an uneasy partnership…

In a recent judgment Mr Justice Mostyn, sitting in the High Court, has ruled that a husband or wife does not have an automatic right to share in their spouse’s lottery winnings upon divorce.

According to our divorce solicitors this is the first case of its kind involving lottery winnings and is likely to set a precedent for other similar cases in the future.

In the case before the Court the couple had been living in a council house when the Wife, unbeknown to the Husband, had purchased a lottery ticket and won £500,000. From her winnings she purchased a property in London for £275,000. The parties and their children lived together at the property for a few years before separating.

The Judge ruled that lottery winnings were generally to be classed as ‘non-matrimonial’ property, however, in this case by investing the money in a property which the parties had lived in, the property became ‘matrimonial property’, which the Husband was entitled to a share of. If however, the Wife had simply put all of the money in a separate bank account, it is likely the Husband would not have been entitled to a share of it, or any share would have been very small.

The Judge did say that if the couple operated a ‘syndicate’ whereby both parties were aware that the ticket was being purchased, the winnings could be classed as joint. Married couples in the future will need to give careful consideration to how their Saturday night lottery ticket is purchased.

This is a strange ruling as the couple in this case had been married for over 20 years. You might expect therefore that the lottery win would be considered part of the matrimonial assets as the ticket had been purchased using monies generated during that marriage. The suggestion appears to be that if one member of a married couple receives a lottery win, or windfall of some other kind, they should keep their assets separate from their family, clearly this does not sit well with the concept of sharing within married life.