A hotel porter won a share of his ex-wife’s £500,000 National Lottery payout in what is reckoned to be the first divorce case involving the distribution of a lottery windfall.
The couple had been married for over 25 years and had two adult children. Some years ago the wife had won £500,000 playing the lottery. She used part of these funds to buy the family home. The couple lived there for about three years before separating.
The judge Mr Justice Mostyn considered whether the payout was a matrimonial asset and capable of being split in the usual way (the starting point being a 50:50 split). The judge ruled that at the time it was received it was not a matrimonial asset but as soon as it had been used to buy the home that element was converted into a marital asset. According to Amanda Melton, a partner at the law firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, the Court used its discretion to take into account the fact that the husband had made no contribution to the home and only lived there for three years. He was awarded only £85,000 out of a potential £500,000 asset.
‘The case seems to suggest that if the wife had not used the money for her family, she would have been able to retain the money on divorce,’ Melton commented. ‘Taking it one step further, does it not suggest that a husband using money to gamble – rather than to provide for his family – could then benefit from the subsequent windfall at the expense of his family? Even more concerning, whilst the legal profession is doing its best to avoid conflict, this decision rather suggests that the arguments over who should be financially responsible for the family should start whilst they are still happily married?’
According to Mr Justice Mostyn there had been ‘at least five reported decisions on the subject in Australia’ but none so far in the UK.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award