22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
Divorce and the Power Ball
big Powerball Jackpot did not allow any of us to retire.It did give us a chance however, to take a
look about how the courts have treated lottery winnings.In Ware
v. Ware, a husband and wife fought over $17 million won by the husband
shortly after the parties separated.The
parties split just three years into their marriage because of the financial
strain caused by Mr. Ware’s gambling (Sense the irony?).
Four months after they separated, the husband
won $17 million playing the Powerball.Four
additional months later Mr. Ware filed for divorce.Initially the trial court awarded Mrs. Ware a
lump sum of $1.6 Million and $3500 per month in alimony.Neither party being happy, they both asked the
court to modify its ruling.The court declined,
and an appeal followed.
On appeal Mr. Ware conceded that the
lottery winnings were technically “marital property” since they were acquired
while the parties were married.However,
he argued that Mrs. Ware should receive nothing.In a divorce case a court may divide marital
property based on a number of factors, including how long the parties have been
married, what financial contributions they’ve made and how the property was
In an earlier case, Alston v. Alston, the husband purchased a winning lottery ticket
worth $1.5 million a year and a half after the parties had separated, but
before they were divorced.The wife had
filed for divorce just prior to learning that Mr. Alston had won the lottery
and dismissed her divorce proceeding upon learning of his good fortune.Six months later she re-filed for divorce and
sought a share of his winnings.The
trial court granted her an award of half of his winnings and it was upheld on
the first level of appeal.He appealed
again and the decision was then reversed.
v. Ware, the court stated that the parties had been separated a shorter
amount of time than those in Alston,
four months versus a year and a half.In
Alston, the wife had already filed
for divorce long before the winning ticket was purchased.In Ware,
neither party had taken formal steps toward divorce beforehand.Also, in Ware,
the court found that the husband would spend nights at his wife’s apartment and
were seeing each other regularly even throughout their separation.
The trial judge found that there would
be an unconscionable disparity in the standard of living between the parties
without an alimony award.Ultimately the
Court of Special Appeals let the trial judge’s decision stand.The court’s opinion reasoned that the money
awarded was a matter of discretion for the trial judge and absent an abuse of
that discretion, they were not going to reverse the decision of the judge.Finding that the judge did not abuse her discretion,
the decision of the trial court was affirmed.
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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.