Could an Unexpected Windfall Be Split with a Separated Party?

Posted on: 22 October 2020


Some people think that there is not much difference between the terms 'separation' and 'divorce.' Either way, the relationship is largely over, and the two individuals may have decided to go their own separate ways, but in legal terms, the difference can be very big indeed. Take the case of a lottery windfall, for example. If the two adults were separated rather than divorced, complications could most definitely arise. If you're in this situation, what do you need to be aware of?

Separation or Divorce

As you may know, Australian courts can issue a divorce decree even if the two individuals are still living under the same roof. Basically, they'll just need to prove that they have been separated for a least a year and that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

In this situation, they may decide to simply separate and not go through the hassle and expense of getting an actual divorce. They may not intend to get back together, but one party may certainly take an interest if the other gains a substantial sum through a lottery windfall.

If you are the beneficiary of the windfall, you may want to keep the lion's share of the proceeds for yourself. Out of the goodness of your heart, you may plan to give your "ex" something significant, but they may have other ideas given the magnitude of the windfall.

Looking More Closely

In a situation like this, a court case is far from unusual. If there is no divorce decree in place, then the outcome is far from cut and dried either, and much will depend on several factors. The court will want to determine whether the financial resource is the property of one party or both. They will look very carefully into the entire process and, specifically, will want to know how the winning ticket was purchased in the first place.

The ticket may have been bought out of the individual's wage or salary and from their discretionary earnings. If this can be clearly shown, then it will not be treated as a pooled resource, and that may be the end of the argument. If, however, the parties had previously sold a jointly owned asset (like a car) and had earmarked those funds for ongoing household expenditure, all bets are off. The plaintiff could argue that those funds were originally generated during the relationship and as such, should be divided. If the winning ticket was bought using those funds, the court might decide to split the windfall in half and give to both parties.

Professional Help

As you can see, details will definitely matter here. You'll want to be sure of your ground no matter which side of the argument you are on. Engage a family lawyer as soon as possible in this situation to protect your interests and put forward a strong case.