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A Gamble on Love: big win sees couple in family court

Family Court

Could your big win mean a big divide between you and your spouse?

What would you do with a million dollars? The question gets asked at dinner parties across the world. From Marrickville to Minnesota when a little bit of wine has been drunk and people are ready to dream turns often turn to a life of luxury won in an instant. It'??s been said that you should gamble everything on love, but could winning the lotto be one gamble that'll see you and your partner fighting it out in Family Court?

It might seem like an unlikely situation for a person to win Lotto, only to find that they'??ll have to share it with an ex-partner, but it does happen from time to time, including recently in the case of Mr and Mrs Eufrosin. The case was described in detail on ABC Radio National's Law Report program.

Married for 20 years the Eufrosins had been separated but were just shy of filing for divorce when Mrs Eufrosin won six million dollars. The husband felt that although they'??d been separated for six months he was entitled to a share of the win, claiming that he saw it as an asset of the marriage. In the legal sense he was correct, as they weren't yet divorced, so at the time of the divorce proceedings that sum of money could be counted as property to be divided between the two.

The wife argued that the husband should only get five per cent, but the husband'?s counsel said that he was entitled to 50%, or at least 33.3%, as the wife had shared a million dollars of her winnings with her sister as she had in fact used the sister'??s Lotto card. However, the wife continued to argue that since she won the money after they separated it couldn'??t be seen as part of some partnership undertaking, even though she had spent most of their marriage buying Lotto tickets once a week.

It got murkier as it was revealed the wife was still receiving income through the family business and had in fact received payment for the care of the children. The husband argued that the winning Lotto ticket was bought with that money and therefore it was a joint venture. So what was the end result?

At the time of the case, there was only just under three and a half million dollars left, and the judge decided to split the couple's property into two pools - there was the money prior to the separation (roughly two and a half million dollars) and then the money the wife had won. The first pool was shared equally between them, and from the second pool the husband received $500,000. The reason the husband received any of the sum of money was because Family Law looks at providing for the future of each individual. They were both close to retiring, and would therefore need a certain amount financial stability, and there was now an imbalance between what each party had. To even things up and to provide for the husband's future, he was awarded the $500,000. However, things didn'??t turn out so neatly in an earlier case.

In the case of Farmer and Bramley, the two parties had been married for a long time. The husband had drug-related problems, so he couldn'??t get a job and the wife supported him. When the couple separated they had little to no money at all, so the wife couldn'??t be compensated for all that she'd done during the marriage.

However, about 18 months after they separated, the husband won five million dollars. The wife began to argue that she deserved part of the winnings as compensation, and the husband disagreed. In the end, the court decided that the man had won the money by himself, and the wife was only awarded $750,000.

It's difficult to determine exactly why the wife didn'??t get more than 15% of the husband'??s winnings, after she'd supported him for a length of time, but questions have been raised regarding what is fair in terms of property acquired after separation, as well as would the verdict have been different if she hadn'??t already remarried.

In a final case examined by the radio program, the result was again different. The case of Kneen and Crockford is different to the other cases as the money from Lotto was won before they had separated, and the disagreement arose after they separated and wanted to split property.

The wife won three million dollars. She argued that it wasn't a joint venture or enterprise, she'd bought the ticket and then she'??d won, so she should get at least a significant amount of the money. However, the court thought otherwise.

It was decided that although the wife had bought the ticket, it was still ultimately a joint partnership that led to the winnings. Therefore the money was divided equally between the two parties, though slightly more was given to the wife in recognition of the fact that she earned significantly less than her husband.

Large sums of money can set even the most level-headed of people squabbling, but each case presented to Family Court is decided individually - there'??s no set formula for how Lotto winnings should be divided between splitting or split couples.

There's One Universal Law: Divorce Makes People Do Crazy Things