We all dream of winning the lottery but if a marriage breaks
down after your win, your dream could become the stuff of
nightmares. Just how much can your soon-to-be ex claim of your good
fortune? In a twist, now pretend that you hit the jackpot in the
first year of your decade long nuptials...
That's just what happened in the case of Elford &
Elford, where the court heard an appeal from orders of a property
settlement at the end of a relationship.
Mr Elford was lucky enough to win more than $622,000 on a ticket
he bought about 12 months after the couple's marriage. Rather
than splurge, the financially prudent Mr Elford placed the winnings
into a term deposit account, solely in his name. The money remained
untouched for the duration of the relationship and formed the
majority of the property pool.
When the couple separated, they applied to the Court seeking
orders for property division. Mr Elford's winnings were now
worth a juicier $1 million and the judge decided that this money
should be seen as a financial contribution made by Mr Elford
Mrs Elford appealed and said that after ten years of marriage,
the contribution should be considered 'joint' and split
The Court dismissed the wife's appeal. It was held that Mr
Elford was solely responsible for this financial contribution and
Mrs Elford received about 10% of the combined property, inclusive
of the lottery winnings.
Why weren't the lottery winnings split between the
What was interesting (and unusual) about this case was that the
couple kept their assets and finances separate during their
marriage. Mr Elford's income was used to meet expenses related
to his property and utilities while Mrs Elford's income
supported her three children from a previous relationship, and
purchased food and groceries for the household.
Additional factors that the court took into account
Mr Elford was solely responsible for purchasing the ticket
Mr Elford chose the winning numbers himself, using the exact
numbers that he had used on a weekly basis when purchasing previous
The winning ticket was only in Mr Elford's name
The winnings were placed into Mr Elford's personal bank
account (the couple had no joint account) and were treated as his
sole asset throughout the relationship.
Although unusual, this case sets out the legal principle for how
lottery winnings should be treated in property settlements of a
similar nature. Importantly, it serves as a warning that your
marriage may not necessarily be viewed as a 'joint financial
enterprise', and that in Australia, there is no concept of
'community ownership of property' arising from the mere
fact of marriage. There can always be exceptional circumstances
where a contribution made by you, or your partner, may be viewed as
not having been accrued from your relationship.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
The WA Supreme Court has recently refused a plaintiff's application to extend the time to bring a claim against an estate.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).