Considering playing the lottery? Good luck! Considering leaving your spouse? If so, you may want to wait on that first part then. Did you know any money you win playing the lottery during the course of your marriage is considered marital property? That means your spouse may be entitled to a portion of your winnings in the divorce. Of course, as with everything related to the law, there are a number of factors that could determine how much your spouse actually receives, if they receive anything at all. Read on to learn more…
Timing is Everything
Except in Maryland where timing doesn’t actually matter a whole lot. In some states, if you purchase a ticket after you and your spouse file for a legal separation, your lotto winnings may not be considered marital property. In Maryland, however, marital property pertains to all property acquired during the marriage. And since legal separation isn’t a thing in Maryland, if you are separated but still married, then your spouse may be eligible to receive a portion of your winnings in the divorce. Ultimately, your winnings will likely be subject to an “equitable distribution” analysis by the court. However, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a 50/50 split or even any split at all. A judge will typically take the facts of each specific case into account when deciding a fair distribution of marital property.
Wait – what is ‘Equitable Distribution’?
Great question! Simply put – each state handles marital property in one of two ways: Equitable Distribution or Community Property. In states that follow Community Property laws, all marital property is split right down the middle. In states that follow Equitable Distribution laws (as Maryland does), all marital property is divided up at the discretion of a judge. This could mean a 50/50 split of all marital property; it could also mean your ex only receives 35% of your marital property. The judge will usually look at the facts of the case (i.e., length of marriage, how the marital property was acquired, what each party owns, etc.) and take those facts into consideration when deciding how to divvy up the property.
Child Support and Alimony
Even if you purchased your ticket and won after your divorce was finalized, your jackpot winnings could still have some affect after your divorce. Whichever way you decide to take your payout, the courts will look at your winnings as income, which will affect how much you are expected to pay for child support. Additionally, even after your divorce is settled, your ex could still take you back to court to review your ability to pay alimony or recalculate your alimony payments based on your newly inflated income.
Don’t take a gamble…
If you’ve won the lottery and are contemplating a divorce, consult with an attorney immediately. The Divorce and Family Law attorneys at Ferrante, Dill and Hisle, LLC can help you understand Maryland’s marital property laws and help you avoid making any missteps during your divorce proceedings. Give them a call today at (410) 535-6100 or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.