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Impact of lottery win on a complex divorce

Since Texas is a community property state, divorce courts typically divide most marital assets evenly between the spouses. This means that, with a few exceptions, any assets or funds the spouses acquire while they are married are on the table during the divorce unless the couple had a premarital agreement saying otherwise. Many spouses find their retirement funds, businesses and hard-earned money split in half during a complex divorce.

However, what happens if a spouse wins the lottery after the divorce is finalized? Does a lottery winner have to share his or her winnings with an ex-spouse? The answer depends on many factors. Perhaps the most important factor is when the spouse purchased the lottery ticket.

A spouse who purchased a lottery ticket before the judge signs the divorce decree may owe his or her spouse half the winnings, even if they were living apart at the time. If the lucky ticket holder waited until after the settlement to play the numbers, the former spouse will probably not be able to claim a share of the winnings. However, if the winning spouse pays alimony or child support, there is a chance the court will approve an increase in those payments if the other spouse files a petition for modification.

Property division when substantial or complex assets are involved can be stressful. Additionally, changes in one former partner's circumstances may necessitate a second look at a court order or settlement agreement. Seeking advice from a Texas attorney about how best to proceed may be the best way to ensure one's rights are protected during and after a complex divorce.

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