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/ 28 Oct 2011

The Law and the Lottery: Matrimonial or Non-Matrimonial Property – A Fair share?

The case of S v AG (Financial Remedy: Lottery Prize) [2011] EWHC 2637 (Fam) was heard before Mr Justice Mostyn in the High Court earlier this month. It involved the division of the proceeds of a lottery win between a husband and wife. She in fact denied winning the lottery whilst the husband claimed an interest in the winnings following their divorce. Interestingly the case was brought by two litigants in person and it apparently reached trial without any relevant papers!

The wife was part of a lottery syndicate that won £1 million in 1999. She received £500,000 as her share of the win and used a substantial proportion of this to purchase a property which ostensibly became the marital home, albeit for a short period of time.

Mr Justice Mostyn rejected the wife’s claim that the parties had been de facto separated since 1996 and therefore, the lottery win had been post separation. He also refuted her claim of not having won the lottery and that the money used to purchase the property had been loaned by a friend who had been part of the syndicate.

The judge addressed the question of whether lottery wins are to be regarded as matrimonial or non-matrimonial property, a subject that has arisen in several Australian cases, but less so in the courts of England and Wales. Mr Justice Mostyn held that the initial lottery prize was non-matrimonial property on the basis that the wife was unilaterally paying the lottery without her husband’s knowledge, but by purchasing the marital home she converted the non-matrimonial assets into matrimonial property. However, given that the prize money was used to fund the purchase and given the short period of time in which the husband lived there, the judge did not consider that there should be equal division, but held that a share of 15-20% to the husband would be fair. This would award him between £72,000 and £96,000 on the basis that the property was worth £480,150. Applying both the sharing and needs principles originating from the landmark cases of Miller and McFarlane [2006] 2 AC 618, the judge granted the husband a lump sum award of £85,000.

It is easy to have some sympathy for the husband in this case. The lottery win came at a time when he and his wife were living together and continued to do so for a number of years before their divorce. Nevertheless, the award of £85,000 is some consolation and adds weight to the argument that marriage itself can be a bit of a lottery!

If you need advice or representation on any financial claims within family law proceedings then the Family & Divorce Law team here at Hanne & Co can help. Please call us on 020 7228 0017 or email at info@hanne.co.uk

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