Do you have to split lottery winnings in a divorce?

A person’s odds of winning the lottery are astronomically low. Whenever someone does win, it is a momentous occasion. Over the last Fourth of July weekend, two Illinois residents won the Lucky Day Lotto, one winner in Chicago and one in East Peoria. 

A lot of Illinois residents play the lottery. While winning is the dream, going through a divorce can put a damper on the good mood. A lot of people assume they will have to give up half, or even more, of their winnings to their ex-spouse. However, the actuality is a lot more nuanced than that.

When did you purchase the winning ticket?

When it comes to the division of assets in a divorce, it all comes down to whether something is marital or separate property. Items you accumulated during the marriage are marital property, and they are subject to division. Anything you acquired prior to the marriage, or after the divorce is final, is separate property. That means the judge cannot give it to your spouse. 

Therefore, if you purchase a lottery ticket during the marriage, then anything you win from it becomes marital property. It is subject to division, but it may not be as simple as an even 50/50 split. It ultimately comes down to the judge’s discretion. 

What other circumstances could affect the outcome?

You may think you are in the clear with your lottery winnings. However, the state may have other plans in mind. If you fall behind on your child support payments, then the state may garnish some of your lottery winnings so that you can catch up. Ordinarily, it will not matter if one spouse has more custody time than the other spouse who won the lottery. Those winnings belong to the person who bought the ticket. If your marriage is on the rocks, then it may be prudent to wait until everything is final before buying another lottery ticket.

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