Husband Leaves Wife and Gets her Lotto Winnings in Divorce

September 7, 2011
Louis Sternberg

Very frequently married couples will separate without taking any legal action regarding their relationship.  Although remaining married can provide certain benefits, such as continued insurance coverage for a spouse who otherwise would have to pay out-of-pocket, failing to file for divorce can have serious legal consequences.  Patricia Eisel of Long Island now knows of those consequences.  Patricia and Jamie Eisel had been married for over a decade when Jamie left his wife in 2010.  Early this year, before either party had filed for divorce, Patricia won the New York lottery and received a lump-sum of approximately $8 million after taxes.

In a divorce action in New York, the court can distribute what is known as “marital property” which is generally only property acquired by either party during the marriage.   Regrettably for Patricia, “courts have universally held that the proceeds of a winning lottery ticket acquired by a spouse during the marriage constitute marital property” (Campbell v. Campbell).    The result is that Patricia’s lotto winnings will likely be deemed marital property and subject to equitable distribution to Jamie.  Certainly well aware of this, shortly after Patricia’s win, Jamie filed for divorce.