11 Feb Divorce After a Financial Windfall
Have you ever wondered if you would “upgrade” your spouse if you won the lottery (or curious if your spouse would!)? Well, there are plenty of people who have been put in that exact situation. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Bloom, we represent those considering or seeking a divorce to ensure our clients are protected on all counts, including financial.
Laws can vary from state to state, especially when it comes to determining what constitutes marital property. If you or your spouse recently received a windfall, whether from the lottery, workers’ comp, or a sweet inheritance, but there’s trouble brewing in paradise, the best thing you can do is establish a relationship with a qualified divorce attorney.
Careful Divorce Planning
Nobody knows how they’ll really react to a big windfall until it happens to them. An anonymous letter to the online financial guru “The Moneyist” wondered if she should divorce her husband immediately after he paid off their mortgage. The “wife in Ohio” had been married for 21 years and knew her husband was going to get a substantial inheritance payment soon. She also knew that in Ohio (just like in New Jersey), an inheritance wasn’t considered marital property.
However, inheritance and any other windfall can be co-mingled (become marital property) in certain circumstances. For example, if one spouse uses their inheritance to renovate the marital home—or pay it off—the results of that inheritance is marital property. A good lawyer could still argue that the now-paid-for home was the direct result of a windfall, but it still makes things messy.
The Precedence of Big Wins and Divorce
Spouses have been trying to figure out how to benefit from their partner’s windfall for decades. There was a 1996 case of a California woman who won $1.3 million in the lottery and waited only 11 days to file for divorce. She hadn’t told her husband about her winnings, and he didn’t find out until two years later. He promptly sued, and the Superior Court Judge was so upset by the wife’s covert actions that the judge awarded the ex-husband all of the winnings.
This case set a nationwide precedent when it comes to windfalls and filing for divorce. If a judge thinks that one spouse is planning for a divorce even as their unsuspecting partner is spending the windfall, that could lead to a serious backfire during divorce proceedings.
Two issues are paramount when it comes to high-stakes divorces: timing and intention. Timing can sometimes simply look suspicious. Maybe you’ve wanted a divorce for years, and it just happens to coincide with your spouse getting lucky with a windfall. Perhaps the windfall brought out the worst in your spouse. However, sometimes a person times their divorce in such a way to try to get rich quick from their spouse’s good fortune received before filing for divorce.
For all Intents and Purposes
Ultimately, in the case of a messy divorce where there’s been a windfall, intention matters a lot. A judge will look at the intentions of both parties, as well as the history of the marriage. Was one spouse being sneaky and trying to maximize their own financial benefit, all while secretly planning for a divorce? Was a windfall hidden? These are just a couple of questions judges will consider in these types of cases.
Money remains a leading issue for divorcing couples, and that can include too little or too much. Getting suddenly wealthy can be very stressful to a marriage, particularly if there is little help when it comes to manage it properly. If a couple doesn’t agree on how to spend the money, tensions can quickly catapult them towards divorce.
Working with a good divorce attorney is your best avenue for ensuring a fair divorce. Whether you got the windfall or your spouse did, you deserve a divorce process that considers your needs. Take the first step towards a more financially stable and happier future by calling the Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Bloom today at 855-208-3650 and schedule your divorce consultation.