Michigan Man Who Won Lottery During Divorce Must Share

Lotto Winner Separate Property

Michigan Man Who Won Lottery During Divorce Must Share

A Michigan court ordered a man who won the Mega Millions lottery (30 million) in 2013 to share with his wife because it ain’t over until it’s over.  At the time he purchased his ticket, he was already separated from his wife for over 2 years (separated since 2011).  His divorce wasn’t finalized until 2018.

While I am usually of the opinion that California is a terrible state to get divorced for the in-spouse (very high child support and spousal support guidelines, plus the onerous community property law), this is the ONE EXCEPTION that California is a GREAT state to be divorced!  When you are separated in California (even if your divorce lasts over 12 years, as the longest divorce I ever handled did), everything you acquire post-separation is your separate property!  Including this Mega Millions lottery ticket!

This beautiful separate property law is California Family Code 771.  

Had Rich Zelasko (great name!) lived in California, this entire lottery ticket would have been his.  Michigan isn’t even a community property state, but the Court ordered him to pay his wife Mary Beth Zelasko 15 million.

Moral of the story: make sure you’re divorced before you buy any lottery tickets in Michigan, because there, it ain’t over until it’s over.


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