Lunar New Year: Good Luck and Misfortune (and Windfalls in Family Law)
We all wish for prosperity and good fortune for the Lunar New Year, but what happens if you win the lottery after separating from your partner?
As we welcome the auspicious Year of the Ox, some may be tempted to seek their fortune by purchasing a lottery ticket. Although, undoubtably lucky, some previous jackpot winners in Australia have had the misfortune of receiving their big win after a separation, but before finalising property matters with their former partner. This is often referred to as a “windfall” in family law in Australia.
So, how does the Court treat these new-found millions?
This has changed over time and is subject to discretion, but in the current approach the Court will:
- First look to the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the winning ticket such as who chose the numbers, from which funds it was purchased, and in whose name.
- The Court will then ascertain the nature of the financial relationship when the winning ticket was purchased and evaluate if the couple lived mostly separate financial lives. Unfortunately (for the winning party) this will not prevent the proceeds from being included in the broader pool of assets available for distribution.
- If the Court finds that one person in the couple was solely responsible for winning the lottery, then these funds will be categorised as a ‘direct financial contribution’ by that person and they will be entitled to a greater percentage of the property pool. However, the ‘lucky’ party will also have reduced future needs by way of their lottery win, so the other party will likely receive a higher percentage of what is described in family law as ‘section 75(2) factors’.
The lesson is this: after separation, finalise and formalise your property settlement without delay, so that if you win the jackpot you can keep all of it! (or at least decide if you want to share it)…
We wish all our clients’ luck, prosperity and good health for the Lunar New Year.
For more information, or to seek the assistance of our family law team in relation to property matters, please contact a member of our family law team on 03 8600 9333.