She Get’s Half of My Powerball Jackpot

Posted: 11 September, 2019

Suppose you are the lucky one who, despite the 1 to 225 million odds, won more than $1 billion in the Powerball Jackpot.  You make plans for how to spend and invest the money. Your eye is on a red Ferrari, a local bar, or maybe a baseball team. You can’t believe your luck.

Then you get a call from your spouse, whom you have been divorcing for the last four months. You don’t want to share your good fortune with someone you are no longer are married. But wait. You are still married. The divorce is not yet final.  In Nevada the divorce isn’t final until the decree has been filed. What does that mean?

Nevada is a Community Property State

Nevada is one of nine states that considers all assets that are accumulated during the course of a marriage to be community property. This includes lottery winnings. Some states consider property acquired by a party after the filing of a petition for divorce is private property.  Nevada doesn’t see it this way. Under Nevada law, community property can be acquired until the final divorce decree is filed with the court. So, your lottery money that was won prior to the final order dissolving your marriage must be divided with your spouse.

Private Property

There may be one way to avoid sharing the winnings 50-50 with your soon-to-be ex-spouse: prove you purchased the lottery ticket with your private property.

Property owned by either husband or wife prior to the marriage, if it has not been commingled with marital property, remains the private property of that spouse and will not be shared with the other spouse at the time of the divorce. According to Nevada Statutes, a personal injury award, inheritance, profits from private property and gifts received during the marriage are still private property.  You may be able to show the court that the lottery ticket was purchased with your private property.  It’s a stretch, but we are talking about splitting hundreds of millions of dollars.

Effect on Support Orders

When the court makes its decision about whether you should pay spousal support or child support, it considers your income. If you accept your winnings by way of an annuity, you will have large monthly payments and it is reasonable for the court to use these amounts for calculating child support or spousal support.

Do Not Hide Your Winnings from the Court

There is generally a lot of publicity focused on Powerball Lottery winners, so keeping your winnings hidden from the court may be impossible. You may be tempted to postpone collection until your divorce is final, assuming this will keep you from having to share your winnings with your ex. This may very well backfire. If a court determines that you hid your assets then it can re-open the divorce and divide appropriately.

These are all good problem to have.  Even if you give up half, there should be plenty left over.  If you are in the process of a divorce and win the lottery then contact your divorce attorney before you purchase that baseball team