Winning the Lottery While Going through a Divorce
Winning the lottery is not always a cause for eternal bliss. If you are going through a divorce when lady luck knocks on your door, notifying your soon-to-be ex-spouse of your win is necessary. Depending on when and how you obtained the lottery ticket, the winnings may be marital property under Illinois law.
Staying Silent May Not be the Best Course of Action
At first, you may be tempted to wait until your divorce is finalized before mentioning your good fortune. However, a court may later find fraud on your behalf and vacate the settlement. When spouses go through a divorce, they are required to disclose all their assets, income sources, and debts to each other. Various forms will need to be filled out in detail and will also require the accompaniment of supporting documents. Deadlines may also be required. In most counties, the form to be completed is a Comprehensive Financial Statement.
Whether or not lottery winnings need to be split between the divorcing spouses depends on the characterization of the winnings as marital or non-marital property. Under Illinois law, marital property is defined as any property acquired during the course of the marriage, with some exceptions. These exceptions include property acquired by gift, legacy, inheritance and property acquired after a judgment of legal separation. Property acquired in these ways is non-marital property.
Therefore, the timing of when a winning lottery ticket is obtained can make a difference. If you and your spouse were legally separated pursuant to a court order when you bought the ticket, it is likely non-marital property. However, if you bought the ticket, discovered it was a winning ticket, and then filed for divorce, you would have to disclose this fact in a divorce as it is marital property. If someone gave you the ticket as a gift, it may change how the ticket and the winnings are viewed. There are several other considerations to keep in mind; therefore, it is important to have a divorce attorney review the facts of your situation and advise you on how the winnings will likely be characterized.
If you had a recent windfall and are going through a divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney at MKFM Law for a consultation. We will advise you on this and other financial matters that may affect your divorce.