Are Your Lottery Winnings Getting Separted in the Divorce?

The Background

Imagine being separated from your spouse for several years. When you were together, you didn’t really have any property or debts. You didn’t have a lot of money in general. You left because you were tired of being abused and so you could protect your children. Since you separated, it has been a nightmare to try to collect child support. Your spouse rarely pays, and when he/she does, it isn’t on time. Since money is tight and divorce is expensive, you decided not to proceed with a divorce until you really needed to.

Then, you hit the lottery. Literally. You are the new overnight millionaire. You and your children’s lives just got a whole lot better. And now, because of the notoriety and because of the money, you’re not just hearing from those long lost family members who would like a “loan” but your old flame just wandered back into the picture, and sent you a message, “you’ll be hearing from my lawyer.”

What?!? Is he/she entitled to some of my lottery winnings? You may have heard about this situation recently on the morning shows. This is basically the facts of a real life case out in Utah where Holly Lahti won one-half of the Mega Million $380 million jackpot. She cashed in and took the lump sum payment of $80.6 million. There is some question about what percentage, if any, of the payout that her estranged husband would be entitled to since she never filed for divorce or legal separation. Let’s say that rather than being in Utah that this was going on in South Carolina. What would happen?

South Carolina Equitable Division

SC Code §20-3-630 defines marital property as “all real and personal property which has been acquired by the parties during the marriage and which is owned as of the date of filing or commencement of marital litigation … regardless of how legal title is held.”  So, since no divorce action or separate support and maintenance action had been filed by either party prior to Ms. Lahti winning the lottery, the lottery winnings would be considered “marital” and would therefore be subject to potential division by the court in subsequent divorce action.

Since the property is subject to potential division, it would fall to several factors contained in SC Code §20-3-620 which gives the Court direction on how to apportion the marital property.  Potential relevant factors in this case would include marital misconduct or fault of one of the spouses (since Ms. Lahti’s husband was allegedly abusive during the marriage which is a ground for divorce in South Carolina), the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the property, and finally a “catch all” that let’s the judge consider other “relevant factors”.

I don’t know exactly what a South Carolina Family Court Judge would do in this situation, but I think based on the abusive marriage and the time the parties have been separated (and that neither was relying on the other financially in any way) that very little of the lottery winnings (if any) would be apportioned to the husband.  Sorry dude!


  1. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this.

    And he in fact ordered me breakfast because I stumbled upon it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this issue here on your
    internet site.

  2. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for tees

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