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Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 24 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.

If you win a lottery or casket during the course of a relationship do you have to adjust or share the winnings with your spouse if you later separate?

The answer to this depends on the facts of the case.

In the 1995 case of Zyk & Zyk the husband was claiming that his lottery winnings should be viewed as a windfall that he shouldn’t have to share. The parties had been married for 2 years when the husband had a lottery win of $95,000. The wife had nothing to do with the purchase of the ticket. The win was in fact his share from a syndicate that had been operating before the marriage.

The Court found that it was part of the husband’s general practice to hand all of his money to the wife who had practical control of the family finances.

The purchase of the ticket had come from the shared joint income of the parties.

The Court held that when the husband transferred the money to the wife, she applied it so it became part of the joint property.

The winnings had been used by both of them in the course of their marital partnership. The court held that the winnings were to be treated as a joint contribution.

This is not always the situation with lottery winnings, however, as was shown in the 2016 case of Elford & Elford where the husband was claiming that he made a sole contribution to the winning.

A striking difference in this case was that the parties, although married, lived totally separate lives financially. Assets were held separately as were bank accounts. There was not a single joint bank account held in both names.

Early in the marriage the husband won over $600,000 in a lottery.

The winnings were lodged in a term deposit in his sole name.

The ticket had been purchased from his private funds and was in his sole name only.

He had been using the same numbers and buying a ticket every week for 9 years.

The Court found that the husband never intended the weekly purchase of a lottery ticket to be for a ‘joint matrimonial purpose’ and said that the husband did not ‘hand all his money to his wife; nor did she have the practical control of the family finances’.

The Court therefore concluded that it was appropriate to treat the husband’s lottery winnings as a contribution by him alone.


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