What happens if I win the lottery years after I have separated, can my ex come after me for any money?
Following on from my earlier article about the implications of a lottery win received during a marriage or at the time of separation, I have received several queries about what would happen if the lottery win were received after separation, potentially even years after.
Once again the position is very different for those who were not married / civil partnered in comparison to those who are married or civil partnered.
If the lucky lottery winner is unmarried then any previous partner of theirs has no ability to make a claim against those winnings for themselves.
Where the couple have children it may be possible to make a claim for some of the lottery winnings even if these are received years after the relationship has ended, to ensure that both parents have funds to provide for the needs of their children. The critical factor is that the ability to make a claim for the benefit of a child / children of the relationship only exist whilst the child / children are under the age of 18. It is this that fact that and the needs of the child / children will be the determining factors rather than when the lottery win was received.
Married couples or civil partners
For those who were previously married or civil partnered the position will depend on whether a financial settlement has been reached and critically whether this has been endorsed by the Family Court and made into a legally binding Court Order.
In those cases where a couple have a Court Order setting out their financial settlement, an ex-spouse / civil partner would be precluded from making any claim on the winnings themselves. The only potential basis for re-negotiation is if there is ongoing spousal maintenance being paid. In those circumstances, if the ex-spouse / civil partner can demonstrate a need for additional funds, the Court may well accept an application to vary the funds being paid on a monthly basis or to provide a one off lump sum payment to capitalise this maintenance. The Court will, however, look critically at the ‘needs’ asserted to make sure that they warrant a further Order being made. As such, the mere fact that a lottery win happens is not sufficient in and of itself to change things.
For those couples who have either not reached an agreement about their finances or who have not had any agreement reached drawn up into a Court Order and approved by the Family Court, everything is still up for grabs. There is, therefore, a real risk that the winnings could be shared completely with the ex-spouse / civil partner. This is even true in those cases where at the point of the separation the couple have no assets and agree to simply go their separate ways. Indeed in one case in 2010 a man who won £56 million on the lottery agreed to pay his ex-wife £2 million after she sought to pursue her financial claims against him through the Family Court. This is despite the fact they had been separated for a decade and that their marriage had broken down as she had walked out on him for another man!
The only way to protect yourself from an ex-spouse or civil partner coming back and trying to benefit from a windfall like a lottery win or inheritance, is to ensure that you have a Court Order dealing with all of your financial claims against each other and providing for a ‘Clean Break’. When these so called Clean Break orders are in place, both of you can go off and live your lives without the fear of having to look over your shoulder if a windfall comes your way.
If you would like advice about your particular situation or you would like assistance with the preparation of a Clean Break order then please do get in contact with our specialist family team who will be more than willing to help.