Property Division in Divorce: Lottery Winnings, Inheritances & Other Financial Windfalls

Dividing money during divorce is difficult enough. If you add a sudden, unexpected infusion of cash into the equation, dividing assets becomes much more contentious.

Before making any decisions or transferring funds into offshore bank accounts, consult with an experienced divorce and property division lawyer as soon as possible. A judge could look at these transfers as shady and fraudulent and order that you pay more than 50% to your spouse. Or, if you are the spouse of someone who received a financial windfall, you’ll want to protect your right to receive a fair portion of the funds.

Does the Timing of the Financial Windfall Matter?

Yes, the timing of when you or your spouse receives the funds affects how the judge will divide it between the two of you. If you have legally separated, that date may affect whether the judge divides the funds or the percentage each person will receive. Other dates—like the date you file for divorce or the date the divorce becomes final—may also serve as cutoff dates for when the judge will divide such windfalls.

What Percentage Does Each Party Get?

The character of the property—either community or separate—determines whether a judge will divide it between you and your spouse and, if so, how much each of you receives. Texas is a community property state, which generally means that both spouses are entitled to equal shares of all property acquired during the marriage. In the case of lottery winnings, your spouse usually is entitled to a full half of your winnings. Inherited funds, on the other hand, may be treated differently.

Note: It is almost guaranteed that a judge will include any income from lottery winnings or an inheritance in setting child support payments. Additionally, if you receive a financial windfall after your divorce is over, your ex could ask the judge to modify spousal support and child support orders to ask for a new calculation based on your new income.

Since the judge takes your income and your ability to pay alimony and child support into consideration when setting the payment amounts, having a large increase in your income could increase your payments. If you’ve invested the funds already, the dividends you receive can also count towards your income calculations.

Consult With an Attorney Immediately

If you anticipate at all that you or your spouse might inherit a lump sum of money, will receive funds from lottery winnings in a large lump-sum, or will inherit funds soon, contact an attorney for expert divorce-planning advice.

You deserve to receive a fair share of any windfall earnings you may receive, especially in an inheritance situation. Do not try to hide the money or spend it quickly on assets that could depreciate quickly. Don’t delay collecting the funds, either, since you could end up losing even more if the court thinks you are doing something shady.
We can help protect you and your future. Contact us to set up an appointment.