As reported on MSNBC, a woman may be required to share her lotto winnings with her estranged husband. This week a 29 year-old single Idaho mother of two won half of the $190 million Mega Million lottery jackpot. She and her husband have been separated for several years. The couple’s life together involved a history of domestic battery, and the estranged husband has been arrested over a dozen times.
This story has raised some serious questions and provoked many to consider the ramifications of staying married while separated. If the lotto winner had filed for divorce at the time of separation from her husband (even if the divorce was not finalized) her chances of losing half her winnings would be significantly less.
Separation is not legally recognized in Florida, where couples are considered either married or divorced. However, “legal separation” is recognized in several states, where some protection may be offered to individuals choosing to delay filing for divorce. According to existing Florida statue, protection from having to share a newly acquired asset with an estranged spouse requires filing for divorce. An exception to this would be existing prenuptial or postnuptial agreements that specifically address this situation. When dividing assets and liabilities in a divorce scenario, courts generally look at the date of filing and consider assets and liabilities existing at that time. Hence, assets acquired after a divorce filing would be considered non-marital and the sole property of the spouse inheriting that asset.