Have you heard divorce over share of lottery winnings- Here are the five family law cases of Canada

Canadian Lottery winner disputes

Canadians love playing lottery and this no joke that winners are few in number and if you win that is for sure once in a life time striking a grand fortune. If you are single person without any partner or marriage the winnings are all yours and it is up to you whom you wish to favour in the family sharing or gifting your wealth. But as a married or common law couples many a times winning a lottery leads to divorce or become a big issue over the winning amount. If such couple separate or divorce then also the question arises as to who will get the money when they split and how the court will divide the money. God forbid such thing happens to any one but here are the five interesting family law cases related to lottery winnings from Canada you will like to know about.

1. The  Kirkor Barkacin vs. Grazyna Wasiak

This was popular case of 2008 at Superior court of Justice Ontario. In this decision before the Ontario Court of Appeal, the husband moved from Turkey to join the wife in Canada, where they got married.  However, seven years after marriage the husband obtained a divorce, which the wife claimed not to know about since they still lived together.  After a decade, the husband bought a lottery ticket and although he checked the numbers, he forgot to check the “Encore” portion of the ticket, which – as the wife later discovered upon taking it back to the store at the husband’s request – turned out to be a $1 million winner.  The wife claimed the husband had given her the ticket as a gift, but reluctantly gave him $300,000 out of the winnings.  However, when he asked for his equal share of the prize, she refused.  The parties fought, and the husband left the house and sued for half the prize.  Despite the divorce and unusual living arrangements, the parties lived in a spouse-like relationship, and the neighbours noted that they celebrated the lottery win as if they were both recipients of the prize.   Overall, the husband had not gifted the ticket to the wife, nor could it be said he abandoned it, so it was to be shared equally. Well what you say?

2. Thompson v. Haley

This case of 1998 is not less interesting from Saskatchewan. When the man and woman decided to live together, the woman moved into the man’s house and they pooled their limited resources and shared living expenses.  However, they did not set up a joint bank account.   They were considered a “couple” by neighbours, but their relationship was volatile and they were both recovering alcoholics.

Three years later, the same day the woman found that a lottery ticket Lotto 649 she had in her purse was worth $2.1 million, she left the house with all her belongings.  The woman claimed that the full amount of the win was hers to keep since she bought and carried the ticket.  The man claimed half the prize because of their shared living arrangements and shared financial resources and expenses.  The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal confirmed that the parties’ day-to-day living arrangement support the equal sharing of the prize.

3. Vivian Jean Souder Vs Stanley George Wereschuk

This famous case of 2004 came in the Court of Appeal of Alberta. Here the couple dated for two years, got engaged, but never married.  Even though they lived separately and had separate incomes and bank accounts, they began to merge their lives and planned a future together.  A few years later the woman bought a lottery ticket which won $500,000 in a lottery. She deposited it into a joint account to which both of them had access.  They treated the money as if they both owned it, paid off the mortgage, bought joint GICs, and each bought themselves a new car.  After another two years, however, they separated. The man sued for an equal division of the money.  After deciding the threshold issue that the parties had an exclusive, committed, common law relationship with a measure of economic interdependence, the Alberta Family Court concluded that they intended to share the win equally.

4. Mary Irene Nisbet Vs Romolo George Nisbet

In this case of 2002 at the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the husband and wife married each other late in life, at close to retirement age.  It was a second marriage for both.   They shared a mutual lifestyle and regularly bought lottery tickets with another couple.   Ten years after they married, during a separation that lasted several months, the husband won $560,000 as his share of a winning ticket.  The husband and wife reconciled several weeks later and bought a home, a truck and a recreational vehicle with part of the winnings.   The husband invested the remaining $150,000 in his name but used the interest for family purposes.  When they separated for the final time 12 years later, the wife brought a court claim for half of the remaining lottery money.   The husband resisted this on the basis that the ticket had been bought while they were briefly separated, so the winnings were not a family asset.  The B.C. Court disagreed; it found that over the years, lottery tickets had been bought from joint funds and that the winning ticket had been similarly paid for jointly, even though technically they were separated.  In these circumstances, the wife was entitled to an undivided one-half interest in the winnings.

5. Kathleen Yamada Vs. Greg  Zolad

In this 2007 Supreme court of Justice Ontario decision, the husband and wife had been married 15 years when the wife developed Alzheimer’s in 2001.   The husband visited the wife almost every day.  A year later, he won $1 million in the lottery; a year after that, the wife’s daughter from another marriage moved her to another city.  After that point, the husband saw her only once, given that he was confined to a wheelchair by this time.   Still, no steps were taken to legally separate, and when the husband died in 2005, he had made provision for the wife in his will.   The court found that the husband had never stopped loving the wife, and the fact that he been geographically prevented from visiting wife did not mean they that they were separated.   The court found that they never were, so the lottery winnings were therefore part of the husband’s net family property and subject to equal sharing with the wife.

So here in these five court cases you see how the money is more important than a relationship. The courts across Canada seem willing to go out of their way to ensure that lottery winnings are shared equally between husbands and wives.  But like many other areas of law the facts of each particular case plays  a significant role in the outcome of the decisions. All things said and done, lottery is fun to play and winning a thrilling event that may be shared with our loved ones.

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