A Mega Millions lottery player from Michigan won $80 million back in 2013 – that’s until the court ruled that he had to give half his winnings to his soon-to-be-ex-wife Mary Beth Zelasko.
Amid Richard “Dick” Zelasko’s divorce, he was thrilled to learn that he had won the 80 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot.
The Mega Millions lottery jackpot winner and his wife, who married in 2004, share three children. At the time of the lottery win, the couple had been separated for two years.
According to a Michigan appeals court, it finally ruled that Dick now has to pay his ex-wife half his winnings, as their divorce was not yet final. Court documents show that Dick won the $80 million jackpot in July 2013 but took home $38,873,628 after taxes and deductions.
The arbitrator John Mills determined that Dick’s lottery winnings were “part of the marital estate” and likely not his first purchased ticket. Over and above the lottery win, the court also ruled that the rest of their assets were also to be equally divided.
The "marital property includes all property acquired from the date of marriage until the date of entry of the divorce decree," including property acquired during a separation, the report noted, citing the court opinion.
Zelasko's lawyer said his client is considering his options, including possibly appealing the ruling.
Lottery winnings and divorce
As more and more people play the lottery, it is inevitable that many of those who win may have to deal with a divorce – hopefully not as a result of the lottery winnings!
Are lottery winnings marital property?
The law is well settled that a lottery prize won during a marriage is generally considered property acquired during the marriage subject to equitable distribution. If you are married then, when your numbers come up, your spouse is entitled to half of the winnings.
Do lottery winnings affect child support?
Winning the lottery can definitely change your obligation. Remember, all arrears owed will be intercepted before you get your winnings. The custodial parent may also request a modification of the support order.
The request will more than likely end up going to court due to the fact that the amount of income will be more substantial than normal and the court will need to go outside of the guidelines they typically use to set a new obligation.
If however, the custodial parent does not request a review of the order be done then it will stay as it is.
Even if there is a request but your winnings are not substantial enough, then your order wouldn’t be affected. In the event that you won the jackpot, then it definitely would be adjusted.
In 1990, Jesse Palacios filed for divorce. He listed himself as an unemployed truck driver with limited assets. The court, therefore, ordered him to pay only $325 a month in child support for his two daughters.
On Jan. 6, 1990 he won the lottery but he didn’t realise that he had won until October. He filed for divorce within a week of winning, but he made no mention of the lottery windfall.
According to court records, he claimed that he was going through old lottery tickets and found the winning ticket. His former spouse argued he had hidden it, hoping to keep the money to himself.
His wife asked that the child support case be reopened. He was ordered to pay child support payments of $2,500 a month.
Another lottery winner by the name of Liu Xiang found out he had won the lottery. He immediately proceeded to initiate the divorce with his wife, Yuan Li, without telling her about his win. He won 4.6 million yuan (£467,000) in China's National Lottery.
The day after he collected his lottery win, friends congratulated her on her now ex-husband's fortune. She took him to court and was paid out 1.15 million yuan in compensation.
Depending on where you live in the world when a judge looks at your spouse’s claim to half the lotto win, some countries mark the cut-off point for shared marital property as early as the date you separate. However, this could change depending on which country you are in. In some countries, the cut-off point is the date you file a divorce or the date when your divorce is finalised.
Lump-sum vs Annuity pay-out
Claiming your lottery win either as a lump-sum or an annuity will also affect the outcome. If you claim your winnings as an annuity, you will receive incremental payments which are usually yearly. This will be taken into account when it comes to calculating child and spousal support.
Consult an attorney
If you have unfortunately decided to part ways with your significant other, once you have double-checked your lottery numbers and hopefully won - make sure that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you are contemplating divorce.
With this week’s US Powerball soaring to $122 million and the Mega Millions lottery also boasting a massive $60 million – you have to agree, that there’s more than enough to go round. our life as it’s supposed to be; happy, content, and of course financially stable.
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