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Separated, But Not Divorced, Mother Might Have To Give Half of Lottery Winnings to Abusive Husband – A Lesson for Women Who Are Thinking About Divorce

posted by Bedrock Divorce Advisors 10:00 AM
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Talk about an emotional roller coaster!

I can’t imagine what it felt like for Holly Lahti, 29, of Rathdrum Idaho, who had the winning numbers to the 2nd largest lottery jackpot in the U.S. earlier last month. And, I can’t imagine that she was terribly disappointed when she found out she had one of the two winning tickets. After all, that still leaves her $90 million – after taxes.

However, there is a blow that I am sure she never saw coming when she purchased that lottery ticket. Although Holly and her abusive husband have been separated for many years (it’s unclear if they were legally separated and that could possibly make a big difference), they never did get a divorce. Because of that, her ex-con husband may now be entitled to a substantial portion of her winnings.

The media has reported this story over and over – it appears that Mr. Lahti is a real loser. He’s been convicted of domestic battery, drug possession, and purchasing alcohol for a minor. It is reported that he has been arrested at least 15 times! There’s even an unnerving photo being circulated showing Mrs. Lahti with a black eye allegedly resulting from a blow from her husband.

Idaho is a community property state. This means that anything acquired during the marriage is considered community property. Community property is defined as all property and debt that was acquired from the date of the marriage until the marital cut-off date. If the couple is unable to agree to how to settle debts and assets (as is most likely the case here!) the court will decide for them. In Idaho, the court is allowed some discretion in deciding how the jackpot will be split. But, it will probably be a long, ugly and expensive legal battle!

You may not be a mega-lottery winner, but there is still a lesson to be taken from this happy, and yet very sad story. If you are considering divorce, you should immediately take steps to boost your chances of coming through your divorce financially secure and in control of your financial future. If you have questions about how to protect your hard-earned assets and property, please feel free to contact us to discuss your specific situation.

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