With the Powerball jackpot reaching over $550 million this weekend, I was asked by a friend whether such winnings would be considered marital property, if he won and decided to leave his wife behind.   First off, my friend was joking, or at least I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.  In response to his question, in Pennsylvania, the date of separation can operate to exclude the future acquisition of assets from the marital estate.  However, the 2012 PA Supreme Court case Focht v. Focht resolved conflicting case law on the issue of whether an award or settlement proceeds from a personal injury claim, lottery winnings or workers’ compensation that accrued during marriage but received after separation should be considered marital property for purposes of equitable distribution in a divorce matter.

The Focht case concerned a personal injury settlement reached three years after the parties separated.  However, the incident that gave way to the settlement, an accident at the Family Grand Prix Raceway in Leesport, occurred during the marriage.  It follows that because the injury/event occurred during the marriage, the settlement that occurred thereafter was marital property regardless of the timing of the settlement.

Applying Focht to my friend’s unthinkable hypothetical, as long as the numbers were drawn prior to the date of separation, the lottery winnings are marital property.