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The Effect of Lottery Winnings in a California Divorce

Today, I read a report concerning two elderly Connecticut sisters squabbling over lottery winnings won by one of the sisters, Rose Bakaysa, and another brother. Turns out that Bakaysa and her brother won a $500,000 lottery jackpot back in 2005. Younger sister, Theresa Sokaitis, claims that Bakaysa violated a notarized contract they signed almost a decade earlier to split all future winnings. However, Bakaysa claims the two broke off the deal during a 2004 fight over a few hundred dollars. Sokaitis acknowledged the rift but believed that contract was still in place. You can read more about the story here. A New Britain Superior Court Judge is expected to issue her ruling in the next few months.

From an Orange County divorce attorney perspective, this report got me thinking about the effect of one spouse concealing lottery winnings from the other spouse during a divorce proceeding. Back in 2001, a Los Angeles County trial court ruled in a dissolution proceeding that lottery winnings concealed by wife during the proceedings to her ex-husband, constituted fraud. Marriage of Rossi, 90 Cal.App. 4th (2001).

The Court of Appeal affirmed said ruling. The court found that the funds used to purchase the lotto ticket were from a community property source and that wife’s claim that same was a gift was not credible. The trial court found that wife intentionally failed to disclose her lottery winnings in the marital settlement agreement, the judgement and in her declaration of disclosure. She also intentionally consulted with a lottery commission as to how she could deprive her hsuband of a share of the prize, used her mother’s address for all communications with the lottery officials and did not disclose samd throughout the divorce.

In light of such fraud perpetrated by wife, the court awarded all of the lottery winnings concealed by wife to her ex-husband. Windfall to husband!

Let this case be an example to all spouses to disclose all assets and liabilities to the other spouse. For more information on asset and liability disclosures while going through a divorce, please contact an Orange County divorce attorney for more information.

MSNBC: Elderly Conn. sisters battle in court over jackpot

Marriage of Rossi, 90 Cal.App.4th 34 (2001)

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