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Separated lottery winner doesn’t have to share

Winning the lottery during a divorce doesn’t mean you have to share the winnings with your ex, says Toronto family lawyer Katherine Robinson.

As long as the win takes place after the date of separation, the prize money remains in the hands of the person playing the lottery, she says.

“In Ontario, it really boils down to what is the situation as of the date of separation — that’s when the property is valued and divided,” Robinson, of Shulman Law Firm, tells AM 640.

“Anything that’s going to happen after that is then presumptively going to belong to each particular spouse and not be joint property. But of course there are always going to be exceptions, or ways in which lottery winnings after separation could be considered in other ways, and it is very fact-specific."

Robinson was commenting on a story out of Amsterdam, where a judge ruled that a woman who won $3.2 million in the lottery during a divorce had no obligation to share it with her ex-husband, according to the Toronto Sun.

In that situation, the couple had filed for divorce in October of 2014 after being married for 30 years. The divorce was not granted until June 2015. The woman won the Post Code Lottery on New Year’s Day 2015.

The man had argued the money should have been included in the divorce settlement because he and his estranged wife always played the lottery using household funds.

But the judge found they had already separated their finances at the time of the lottery win.

Such details of the separation — often contested by one party seeking a more generous settlement — can make decisions difficult, Robinsons says. That’s where a judge comes in.

“In Ontario, there’s no such thing as a legal separation,” Robinson tells the radio station. “It’s based on a factual set of circumstances. It could be when someone moves out of the house, it could be when they start a new relationship, or it could be two spouses still cohabiting but they’ve gone through a separation.”

She advises anyone going through a separation and divorce to consult a lawyer to understand their rights and obligations.


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