Winner winner, chicken dinner!
You’ve hit the jackpot, invested the money and that nest egg has grown into a tidy little sum. 10 years later your relationship ends. Who does the money belong to now? Ordinarily, all assets of a relationship are included in the asset pool for distribution between the parties at the end of a relationship and but in the recent case of Elford & Elford the Court decided that the lottery winnings belonged to Mr Elford solely rather than being treated as a ‘joint’ asset of the marriage.
Mr Elford won $622,000 10 years ago, in his first year of marriage to Mrs Elford. He had purchased the ticket in his own name, using his own money, using the same numbers he had been using on a weekly basis previously. When he won he placed the winnings in a bank account in his sole name. The account attracted interest and his initial $622,000 was worth more than $1M by the time they separated. The couple did not have a joint bank account, they had kept their assets and finances separate throughout the marriage. Mr Elford used his income to meet expenses related to his property and utilities and Mrs Elford used her income to support her 3 children from a previous relationship and to pay for food and groceries for the household.
This is an unusual outcome but it does provide the legal principles for how lottery winnings should be treated when considering the asset pool for distribution between the separating parties. This just goes to show that there are some circumstances where a contribution made by one of the parties may not be viewed as having been accrued during the relationship. This case outlines how a relationship may not necessarily be viewed as a ‘joint financial enterprise’.
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