Mega Millions lottery winner Holly Lahti, who is separated from her husband after years of domestic abuse, may be required to share her winnings, totaling half of the $380 million jackpot. Idaho is a community property state, her estranged husband, Josh Lahti, could wind up a very rich man. Although it is unknown on how a judge may interpret the ticket, Josh Lahti has a potential of taking half Holly Lahti’s winning because the couple never divorced. A judge has the discretion to leave the husband with less than half. Holly Lahti has not decided whether the take the annuity or cash option. If she elects the one-time $190 million cash option, she would receive a check for more than $80 million after taxes. If she chooses an annuity, 26 payments over 25 years, her annual payment would be $4.9 million after taxes. Holly Lahti has nearly two months to decide which option to take. Full story: msnbc.com.
In the event the Lahti’s decide to get divorced, which is probable, the court will have to decide how to treat the lottery winnings. Idaho is a community property state, where there is a presumption of equal division of property. In a community property state, marriage is viewed as a community and each spouse is a member that contributes equally. Upon divorce, each spouse has a right to equal division of property, although separate property that may have been owned or retained separately will not get distributed equally. New York is not a community property state, but follows an equitable distribution system. There are several factors weighed in determining what is equitable and fair. Judges are afforded great discretion in rendering what may be “tough justice,” in that distribution may not necessarily be about equal distribution, rather it is about what is fair. NY divorce law
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