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Divorce and Lottery Winnings In Illinois 

Posted on in Property Division

Divorce and Lottery Winnings In Illinois, DuPage County divorce attorneysThe website Central Illinois Proud recently reported on several stories of people winning the lottery before their divorces were finalized. The main question that comes up is whether the soon to be ex-spouse is entitled to any of the winnings. While it seems like this would be a rather basic question, like many parts of the law it is not as straightforward as it seems.

Disclosure

If you have won a significant amount of money and are separated or in the process of divorce, you need to make sure you are upfront with your attorney and your spouse about the winnings. The Central Illinois Proud article highlights the case of a California woman who won the lottery, and then filed for divorce a few days later. She did not plan to tell her ex-spouse about the money but then her winnings, and her deception were found out during the divorce process. The court ended up awarding her ex-husband all of the winnings.

While the case may have gone differently in Illinois, if assets are not fully disclosed during a divorce, the divorce can be “undone” and the division of assets can be changed. You can also be penalized by the court for hiding assets, so your best bet is to be upfront about any winnings.

Illinois Law

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act governs how assets are divided during a divorce. The Act requires that marital assets are “equitably” divided. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal. With lottery winnings, there are basically two questions the court needs to decide: first, whether the winnings are a marital asset, and second, if they are a marital asset, how the winnings should be divided between the spouses.

Illinois does have some case law on the issue, though it is rather old. In the 1994 Illinois Appellate Court decision, In re Marriage of Morris, the court was faced with a situation where a man won the lottery while separated from his wife. He and his wife were married in 1967 and lived together as spouses for two years. Over the next 25 or so years, they lived separately and conducted separate lives but would occasionally see each other. His aunt was his pension beneficiary. The husband’s first lottery payment of $70,000 a year (after taxes) for the next 20 years began in November of 1992. The marriage was officially dissolved in June 1993.

The Illinois Appellate Court agreed with the trial court that the winnings were marital property because the couple was technically married at the time the ticket was bought. However, the appellate court overruled the trial court’s award of only six percent of the winnings to the ex-wife. The appellate court remanded the case back for the assets to be divided again, with the understanding that only in extraordinary circumstances should the division of assets be so lopsided.

Let Us Assist You with Your Case

If you are thinking about getting a divorce, or you have recently won money and are in the process of a divorce or separated, you need to talk to a skilled divorce attorney because these situations are incredibly fact specific. Our dedicated DuPage County divorce attorneys at Davi Law Group, LLC can help advocate for you to get the outcome that you want.

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