Lottery Winnings in a Las Vegas Divorce

lottery winnings and divorceThere have been cases where one spouse wins a lottery or comes into another form of financial windfall during a Las Vegas divorce case. If you win the lottery or achieve some other significant financial upside, but are separated or in the middle of a Las Vegas divorce, what happens to your money? Do you get to keep it for yourself or are you obligated to divulge and divide it with your soon-to-be-ex? Continue reading to learn more from our Las Vegas divorce attorneys on how Nevada law treats lottery winnings in a Las Vegas divorce.

Are Lottery Winnings Subject to Division?

Absent a pre or post nuptial agreement, assets acquired during marriage are generally community property, subject to division in a Las Vegas divorce. The rule applies even if you are living apart but don’t have an enforceable legal separation agreement. In fact, in Nevada, the rule applies even if you have already filed for divorce. Nevada is one of the rare states in which the marriage is still active, and marital assets are still accumulated, until the final divorce decree is issued.

If you purchase a winning lottery ticket, or come into a windfall through other means such as a granting or exercise of stock options, before the divorce is finalized, your financial gains are community property. That means you divide your new found wealth with your spouse in the divorce.

Separate Property Exceptions

You may be able to rely on an exception to the general rule to protect your winnings. If you inherit a lottery ticket from a deceased relative, or if you are given a lotto ticket as a gift, solely to you, from a third party, then the lottery winnings might be considered separate property. Additionally, if you purchased your lotto ticket before the marriage, you might be able to argue that the property was acquired before the marriage and thus constitutes separate property.

You might possibly even be able to protect your lotto winnings if you bought the ticket during the marriage but paid for it with separate property, such as with funds obtained via inheritance or gift. This argument may be considered a stretch, and not all courts will agree, but it could be worth making. In these instances, an experienced divorce attorney with a track record of success in high asset divorces should be consulted.

Never Hide Your Lottery Winnings

Whatever you do, do not try to hide your lottery winnings from your spouse. There have been a number of cases in recent history in which a person wins the lottery shortly before filing for divorce, or even after filing, and tries to hide it from their spouse. Courts do not take kindly to parties who try to hide assets in a divorce. Even the best divorce attorneys in Las Vegas will most likely not be able to convince a judge that the funds are all yours.

For example, in one case a woman won $1.3 million in the California Lottery and promptly filed for divorce 11 days later. She hid her lottery winnings from her husband and the court. Her husband’s divorce attorney, through investigation, found her lottery winnings. The family court judge not only demanded that her lottery winnings be included in the divorce proceeding–he penalized her by awarding the entirety of her winnings to her husband in the divorce. The law requires full and complete financial disclosure and you must provide it. Judges do not like being lied to. The same goes for divorce attorneys.

Lottery Winnings and Alimony, Child Support

Even if you manage to keep your lotto winnings, they will still be used as evidence of your financial circumstances for the sake of spousal support and child support. After all, you can afford to pay more now that you won the lottery. The entirety of your financial circumstances, including your separate property, are relevant when making decisions concerning child support and spousal support. For example, if you accept your winnings via monthly annuity payments, the court will consider those payments as part of your monthly income when evaluating support.

Protect Your Finances in Your Las Vegas Divorce

Our seasoned divorce lawyers in Las Vegas are ready to help you navigate all aspects of your divorce case, from property division to alimony and child custody. Call 702-222-4021 to speak with one of them about your important divorce matter concerns.