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What Happened to my Lottery Winnings?

Jul 2 | 2019  by

By Beth Florkowski of Fausone Bohn, LLP posted in Family Law on Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

Katherine Krysak, Esq.

A suburban man purchased a mega millions lottery ticket in 2013 when he was separated from his wife. Rich Zelasko and his wife, Mary Beth Zelasko, had been separated for 2 years. Rich ended up winning $30 million from the lottery ticket. Instead of Rich maximizing his potential winnings, his ex-wife, Mary Beth, maximized hers.

When Rich won the $30 million lottery, he was still considered to be married to his wife. Even though Rich and Mary Beth were separated, they were not legally divorced. Once the divorce was finalized in 2018, Rich Zelasko was ordered to pay his wife $15 million.

During the process of divorce, Rich and Mary Beth had mutually agreed on an arbitrator who would make some decisions during the process of their divorce. Because of this, the arbitrator ruled that since the lottery ticket was purchased during the course of their marriage, it was considered “marital property” even though they had been separated for some time. Marital property is considered any sort of property that was purchased by either spouse over the course of their marriage. Richs’ lawyer argued that it was Rich’s luck, not Mary’s luck, that produced the lottery winnings.

Rich Zelasko, probably stunned, appealed the arbitrator’s decision to the Appellate court. The Appellate court did not find any errors in the arbitrator’s decision, leaving Rich to pay his now ex-wife $15 million. Arbitration is legally binding, but both parties do have the option to appeal the arbitrator’s decision within 14 days. The arbitrator’s decision is rarely reversed by the court, unless the arbitrator does not act as a neutral decisionmaker or the arbitrator exceeded his/her power.

So don’t wait around, if you need that divorce done call Katherine Krysak at  248-912-3233.