High Court decides lottery win is non-matrimonial property

Purchase of former matrimonial home converts non-matrimonial assets into matrimonial property

Mr Justice Mostyn, in S v AG (Financial Remedy: Lottery Prize) [2011] EWHC 2637 (Fam), has decided what is thought to be the first financial relief case in which the High Court has had to determine the status of a National lottery win. Mostyn J found that the initial lottery prize of £500,000 was non-matrimonial money.

Looking at the principle of need, Mostyn J found that the husband had a need for a lump sum of £82,000 in order to provide for his old age. Such a sum would leave his former wife and her new husband with ample funds to provide for their own old age.

Considering the notion of sharing, Mostyn J reviewed in detail the particular features of lottery wins and the question of whether they are to be regarded as matrimonial or non-matrimonial property. Having considered several Australian decisions concerning lottery wins, Mostyn J also found that these were of limited use in this jurisdiction. The judge found that thewife had been unilaterally playing the National Lottery, without the husband’s knowledge, and bought the tickets from her own earned income. He decided that the initial lottery prize of £500,000 was non-matrimonial money. However, when she purchased what was to become the new family home with her lottery winnings, she converted that part of her non-matrimonial assets into matrimonial property.

Commenting on the case, Alison Hawes, a partner with Irwin Mitchell, said:

‘This is an interesting decision – another one that ‘ring fences’ assets, after needs have been met, rather than applying the so called sharing principle to all property, rather than just ‘matrimonial ‘ property. Some may see it as resiling yet further from White v White [2000] UKHL 54 to protect wealth acquired through one party’s efforts, although the effort in this case seems to amount to buying a £2 ticket. I wonder if the decision would have been different if the £2 had come from a joint account. Presumably if this husband hadn’t needed £82,000 for his retirement he wouldn’t have had any of the lottery win.

‘The decision is the latest in a line of cases that demonstrates how some judges in the High Court appear to be separating assets of married parties, akin to the approach adopted in Europe – is the long term aim to make prenuptials agreements easier to regulate? Are we moving further away from fairness to codifying asset ownership?’

Source: Family Law Week.

Specialist PI Limited provide investigations into matrimonial disputes; please call us on 0207 206 4650 or email us at enquiries@specialistpi.com

Subscribe to our news

Receive blog updates directly into your inbox.

We will only send you Specialist PI-related news and information