Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 23, 2012

Separated but not divorced can cost a financial jackpot

My wife walked into a gas station and said she was buying a lottery ticket. I told her the odds were 176,000,000 to one.

She said that if she won, she would keep all the money to herself.

I explained that if she won, half of the jackpot is mine. A winning lottery ticket is a marital asset, to be split equally.

Not everyone knows that.

One of the first lottery winners I ever got to know was the divorcing spouse of a guy who won the lottery. The divorce should have been final months earlier, but he was stalling it out while arguing a minor point about child support.

I’m not sure if he got his way about the child support. I do know that she got several million dollars instead.

I’m writing a new book called “Life Lessons from the Lottery.” The theme is that lottery winners have the same financial and social issues as other people. Only their problems are magnified 1,000 percent.

For those of us who follow the trials and tribulations of lottery winners, seeing a separated, but not-yet-divorced, couple hit the lottery has happened more than once.

This makes me think there are a lot of separated couples all over America.

Various census statistics say that two to three percent of Americans (roughly six or seven million people) are separated but don’t have their divorce final.

One of them was my late sister. She fell down a flight of stairs and died at age 46, leaving a minor child and an adult child.

She also left a husband we did not know about.

She had been married to this man for several years, and her younger child was his. However, she had told us she had divorced him several years earlier. They didn’t live together and, for most of that time, she had lived in California and he had lived in Cincinnati.

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