Say you win the jackpot on the next big lottery, and it’s a life-changing amount of money. These jackpots sometimes get as high as $300 million or more. Though you do take home a lot less after taxes and everything else, it’s still the type of money that most people will never see in their life.
So what if you win the lottery, your spouse takes one look at your new wealth, and he or she decides to divorce you? They want to take half of those lottery winnings and go off on their own. Can they do this, or do you get to keep all of the money since you’re the one who won?
If you win while you’re married, it’s likely a marital asset
Generally, the way the law looks at lottery winnings is that they count as a marital asset if you are married when you win. You likely spent marital assets to buy the tickets that you won with, and any income that you make while you’re married is usually a marital asset anyway. Lottery winnings fall into that category, even though just one person bought the ticket.
This means that your spouse likely does have a claim to that money. Now, if you had won before you got married, you could have kept the money separate or used a prenuptial agreement to make sure they couldn’t take it. If you won after you got divorced, it would stay with you. But, if you win while you’re still married and then your spouse immediately divorces you, they can still ask for you to divide those winnings along with your other assets.
This type of divorce, with so much money at stake, can get very contentious. Make sure you know about all of the legal steps you need to take.