How Common-Law Couples Can Protect Lottery Winnings

November 28, 2019
Kim Brown

Article written by Kim Brown

Almost everyone has thought about winning the lottery. Just think about what you would do with that extra money. But if you’re in a common-law relationship, you should also ask yourself if your partner is entitled to half.

In an interview with Global News, our lawyer Laura Paris revealed that many common-law couples hold the misinformed understanding that “what theirs is theirs, and what belongs to their spouse, stays with their spouse. That’s not necessarily the case.”

A 46-year-old Chatham man found that out the hard way. He won $6 million, but could only get half because his live-in girlfriend argued that half of that money was hers.

The man allegedly told his partner that the ticket was not a winner. He moved out five days after the draw. The woman later found out that he had lied, and quit his job. The couple is said to have been living together for over two years, and was known to regularly buy lottery tickets together.

The ex-partners could not come to an agreement, and the issue had to be taken to court.

To avoid a legal battle over a winning ticket, Laura recommends that common-law couples enter into a cohabitation agreement. The agreement should clearly state how assets, including lottery winnings, are to be divided.

“If there is no cohabitation agreement, then it would be important to have signatures put very clearly on the lottery ticket, which will very clearly show that the lottery ticket is supposed to be split between both parties,” says Laura.  

“If you still did not do that, upon having the lottery winnings, having some sort of document after the fact which says how you intend for that particular asset to be divided, would probably be your best bet in terms of avoiding any issues that may occur in the future.”