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29-year-old Jackpot Winner May Take Home Only Half

A 29-year-old Idaho woman lucky enough have won the $380 million Mega Millions jackpot is, unluckily, still married to her estranged husband. Now she may be able to take home only half of her winnings because of Idaho community property laws.

The 29-year-old woman had reportedly married her husband in 2001 and separated from him several years later, but they never obtained a divorce. Her estranged husband has been arrested for domestic battery, drug possession, buying alcohol for a minor and various other charges. Most of the charges have been dismissed, but last year he was convicted of DUI. He is now currently out on probation and owes $1000 of unpaid fines. Both the woman and her husband were booked on battery charges in 2003 and jailed.

The lottery winnings, if taken in a lump sum, will amount to around $80 million after taxes. The 29-year-old woman has not yet collected her check, but has quit her job as a bank clerk. Her estranged husband apparently found out about the lottery winnings through a reporter.

Under Idaho community property law, everything acquired during marriage is presumed to be community property, and there is a presumption of substantially equal division between partners in the event of divorce.

The woman's husband could rightly now make a claim on half of the winnings. But while he at least has a claim, he may not actually convince a judge to equally split the property. A judge would have to consider various factors in making a determination in regard to property division, including whether the husband has faithfully made child support payments or whether there was domestic violence in the marriage.

The $380 million Mega Millions jackpot is the second largest jackpot in US history.

Source: USA Today, "Lottery winner may have to split it with estranged husband," Douglas Stanglin, 18 Jan 2011.

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