Florida divorce: do you have to share if you win the lottery?

The well-publicized Florida divorce case of Donna Campbell and lottery winner Arnim Ramdass is in the news again. Floridians will recall that Ramdass, an airline mechanic, allegedly won his $450,000 allocation of 2007 Lotto proceeds after splitting the pot with colleagues. Rather than sharing his new wealth with his wife, Ramdass disconnected the telephone and kept the television off in their home, apparently to keep the news secret from her, and then disappeared.

After finding out about the financial windfall on the Internet, Campbell sued her husband for half of the winnings, according to The Miami Herald, but that case was dismissed with the judge reportedly suggesting family court might be a better place for the dispute.

Campell filed for divorce and sought part of the award, but she could not locate her husband to serve him the court papers. In the meantime, Campbell lost their house to foreclosure.

But now, according to 7News at wsvn.com, Ramdass must have resurfaced, because the couple is back in court in Broward County, having appeared at a hearing in January 2013. The article reports that Campbell seeks "her share of the marital estate" and that trial is set for June.

Equitable distribution

The judge in Donna Campbell's divorce will have to apply Florida family law to the case to determine whether Campbell is entitled to any of her husband's lottery winnings. Florida has a complex law about how the court is to divide marital assets in divorce - by "equitable distribution."

Before it gets to that point though, a couple may have already agreed how to divide property and debt by entering into a valid pre- or postnuptial agreement or divorce settlement agreement. But if they cannot negotiate the division outside of litigation, the judge will have to apply decide how to divide their property. Nonmarital

First, the law says that the judge gives back to each party his or her own "nonmarital assets and liabilities," meaning mainly those brought into the marriage at the beginning by each of them or received during the marriage by either of them individually in the form of a gift or inheritance. Marital

"Marital assets and liabilities" are those acquired during the marriage, either jointly or individually, and these are to be equitably distributed between the spouses. Specifically, the statute says that the split should be "equal," unless the court finds a valid justification in "equity and justice" for "unequal distribution based on all relevant factors."

The law lists nine specific factors that might be relevant to an unequal distribution of assets and liabilities:

  • Homemaker contributions
  • Relative wealth of the parties
  • Length of marriage
  • Negative affect of the marriage on either's career
  • Contribution of a spouse to the other's career
  • Desirability of awarding an asset such as a business to only one party
  • Income and debt brought into the marriage by each
  • Desirability of keeping the family home intact because it's in the "best interest" of a child or other person
  • "Intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets" in the two-year period before the divorce was filed or since filing
Seek legal counsel

This article only scratches the surface of Florida law surrounding the division of a marital estate in divorce. If you face divorce and are concerned about how your property and debt will be divided, seek the advice of an experienced Florida family law attorney.