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Should man's ex-wife be entitled to his lottery winnings?

Couples going through a divorce may face disagreements on several issues, including property division. In most states, including Illinois, a judge may decide what is considered equitable distribution, instead of automatically dividing the property fifty-fifty.

Recently, an out-of-state man has been ordered to pay his ex-wife $50,000 of his $2 million lottery winnings, which he won in 2011. According to reports, the man and his ex-wife separated in 2006 and were living as single individuals with separate bank accounts, and did not comingle assets during the nearly six years before the man won the lottery. When the man won $2 million in January of 2011, he officially filed for divorce in March of that year. The divorce was not finalized until June 2012.

After learning that her estranged husband had won $2 million, the woman wanted $1.4 million of the winnings. However, even though the divorce was not finalized until more than a year after the man won the lottery, the woman was not awarded half of the lottery winnings. A judge ruled that $50,000 was fair, because when the man and woman separated, the man's ex-wife took nearly everything, and they had been living completely separate lives for almost six years.

In Illinois, the same rule would apply to a situation similar to this one; a judge is the one who makes the decision on a fair division of assets, if the couple cannot reach an agreement on their own. It is common that the court will add up a divorcing couple's total marital assets, and grant each spouse a percentage, depending on the circumstance with each unique situation.

Property division during divorce or separation can be complicated, especially if one spouse wins a significant amount of money, for example, winning the lottery. Couples often seek guidance from legally trained professionals to ensure that each spouse receives the assets he or she deserves.

Source: USA Today, "$2 million lottery winner has to give ex-wife $50,000," Tim Evans, April 23, 2014

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