Family Law – (Division of Matrimonial Assets)Lottery Winning

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Lottery Winnings during Marriage

BOI v BOJ (2019) SGCA 30

Issue: Whether Lottery Winnings during marriage should be considered as matrimonial assets.

Brief Facts of Case

Husband was an inveterate gambler and had won the sum of the $1.25m in the lottery in 2002 when parties were living together.  The winnings were principally used to repay the mortgage loans of the matrimonial home. Parties separated in 2004. The Respondent won lotteries on a few other occasions of varying sums after separation. The wife claimed to have bought the ticket and argued that she had used the winnings to pay for the mortgage and hence was entitled to a larger portion of the matrimonial home as she had made more direct contribution.  She alternatively, argued that she should at least be entitled to the winnings on a 50:50 basis.

There were two issues to be decided by the Court of Appeal:-

  1.  Whether or not lottery winnings are part of the pool of the matrimonial assets.
  2. If the winnings constituted matrimonial assets how the winnings are to be treated when dividing the matrimonial assets

Court of Appeal decided that lottery winnings will be treated as matrimonial assets unless there was clear evidence to show that the spouse who won the lottery did not intend to use the winnings for the benefit of the family and only for himself or for others. In this case, the winnings were deposited into the joint account of the husband and wife and was used to repay the mortgage loan of the matrimonial property.  The husband also admitted that the winnings was for the benefit of the family.  Therefore, it was clear that lottery winnings in 2002 formed part of the matrimonial assets. However, winnings after the separation could not constitute matrimonial assets as the Husband could not have intended the winnings to be used for the benefit of the family.

In respect of division of the winnings, the Court of Appeal held that there was a presumption of 50:50 unless the party who purchased the winning ticket can show that he or she had purchased the ticket with a view to only benefitting himself or herself or that there was prior arrangement between parties where there clear distinction between the spouses’ assets during the subsistence of the marriage.

Section 112 of Women’s Charter

S. 112 (10)  In this section, “matrimonial asset” means –

(a) any asset acquired before the marriage  by one party or both parties to the marriage –

     (i) ordinarily used or enjoyed by both parties or one or more  of their children while parties are residing together for shelter or transportation or for household, education, recreational, social or aesthetic purposes; or

    (ii) which has been substantially improved during the marriage by the other party or by both parties to the marriage; and

(b) any other asset of any nature acquired during the marriage by one party or both parties to the marriage,

But does not include any asset (not being a matrimonial home) that has been acquired by one party at any time by gift or inheritance and that has not been substantially improved during the marriage by the other party or by both parties to the marriage.

Comments:

It is clear that lottery winnings are matrimonial assets under Section 112 (10) (b) of the Women’s Charter and is to be divided equally unless:-

  1. The spouse who bought the winning ticket can show that he or she had not intended the winnings to benefit the family and only intended to benefit himself or herself or others outside the family.
  2. The spouse who bought the winning ticket can show that there was clear separation of assets during the marriage such that the winning could not be considered part of the matrimonial asset.
  3. The spouse can prove that he had pooled with others to buy the winning ticket such that he is only entitled to part of the winnings after dividing the winnings with others who had pooled to buy the winning ticket.  However, it appears that the his proportion of the winnings will be considered as matrimonial assets unless he can show the circumstances stated in a. and b. above.