Imagine this – in the first year of your new marriage, you also win the lotto. You decide to deposit the money into a term deposit, as a nest egg of sorts, and your lotto win increases to a cool $1 million. After a decade, the marriage sours and you both decide to part ways. The question now being, do you have to share your lotto win with your ex-partner in the property settlement?
This question was asked in the case of Elford & Elford last year. This was a matter where the husband had won approximately $622,000 on a ticket that he had bought 12 months after marrying Mrs Elford. Mr Elford was sensible and deposited the money into an account which he held in his name solely. He did not draw on this money for the remainder of the relationship nor did Mrs Elford contribute nay further monies to this account. At separation, the money in this account formed the majority of the property pool.
On first instance, the Judge determined that the money should be considered as a financial contribution by Mr Elford alone. Mrs Elford appealed on the basis that the money should be considered as a ‘joint’ contribution during the course of the marriage.
Ultimately, Mrs Elford’s appeal was dismissed and it was held that Mr Elford made the financial contribution.
The determining factor in this matter was the degree with which Mr and Mrs Elford conducted their finances separately. Mr Elford and Mrs Elford kept their finances separate and never had a joint bank account. Additionally, Mr Elford purchased the ticket, chose the winning numbers himself, purchased it in his name and the winnings were placed into an account in Mr Elford’s name.
If you have questions about how you can best protect your assets from a claim by your spouse, please contact Jeffrey David, Hayley Williams or Shae Mitchell.