Lottery Winner Risks Losing Windfall in Divorce

Recently a woman from a small town in Idaho has become catapulted to the national stage. The Associated Press has released information about Holly Lahti, who recently won a $190 million Mega Millions jackpot.

While this is big news on its own right, Lahti’s background is what has really grabbed the eye of several in the media.

Lahti, 29, is a single mother who has been separated from her husband for several years. But because they have only been separated and not legally divorced, her husband might be entitled to some of that money. It’s a gray area of Idaho law.

What makes Lahti’s story even more gripping is the violent relationship she had with her husband. In 2003, police responded to a domestic dispute and arrested both her and her husband, which is often common when the police have difficulty in deciding who started the fight.

Lahti’s mugshot from the incident shows her with a swollen black eye and an apparent cut on her chin. The charges were eventually dropped.

This was not the only time that her husband, Josh Lahti, was in trouble for his abusive conduct. Later in 2003, Josh violated the no-contact order and was charged with second-degree kidnapping, possession of drug paraphernalia, domestic abuse, battery and false imprisonment.

Most of those charges were also dropped, but he did serve 180 days in jail and three years’ probation for kidnapping.

When Josh was contacted about his wife’s good fortune, he responded by saying, “That’s awesome! I won’t have to pay child support!”

Jennifer Mayberry wanted to make sure that people don’t judge Holly based on her mugshot and described her as, “kind. She is friendly. She is shy.”

In most states, when a couple has not lived together for a certain period of time, the new assets will be separate from the marital assets. But Idaho divorce laws are a little different and don’t fully explain the distinction.

Elizabeth Brandt, professor of family law, says that there is no case law on this issue, but that Josh should not expect to get a huge windfall.

“I can’t imagine he will have a significant claim to these earnings in the end,” said Brandt.

But if Holly does decide to get a divorce, it is an issue that will have to be addressed. The bottom line is that no one can say for certain how much money Josh will be able to get out of his marriage.

Holly did decide to take the lump sum of the money, as opposed to the annual payments for the next 25 years. She won $120 million which was reduced by taxes to approximately $80.6 million. Either way, the amount of money that Holly ends up with will be a life changing amount.

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