That Powerball lottery jackpot got pretty big, didn’t it? At over $1 billion, it was the highest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. And despite the slim to impossible odds of actually striking gold, it is always fun to fantasize about what you would do with all of that dough. But Powerball winner beware ”“ if you are undergoing divorce, you could very well find your winnings sliced and diced by your spouse and the courts.
Whether or not a spouse can dip into your lottery earnings depends largely on what stage of the divorce you are in. If, for example, your divorce is already final, you will probably not have to worry about your winnings being taken away, since the lottery ticket will not have been purchased with marital funds. This could, of course, change if you have some sort of continuing financial obligation to your former spouse such as maintenance (alimony).
If you are still married when the lottery ticket is purchased, under Colorado’s equitable distribution rules, the winnings would be considered marital property and thus subject to the division based on the judge’s discretion.
What about situations where the ticket is purchased following separation, but prior to divorce? Typically, the ticket would still be considered marital property. Again, the distribution of the lottery winnings would be up to the judge.
If you did end up being one of the lucky three Powerball winners, even if you are in a happy marriage, it would be wise for your first phone call to be to a trusted attorney. There are plenty of family law matters you will want to take care of just in case your incredible luck turns sour.
At Divorce Matters, our experienced Denver attorneys fight to protect your property during the dissolution of your marriage.