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After Divorce, Guy Gets Bad News About $80M Jackpot

Writing her that $15M check won't be easy
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2019 4:00 PM CDT
A customer shows his Mega Millions lottery ticket in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(Newser) – Is Richard Zelasko lucky or unlucky? In 2013, the Michigan man won a stunning $80 million Mega Millions jackpot—nearly $39 million, after fees and taxes—but is now being forced to share it with his ex-wife, CNN reports. The timing is key, because Zelasko filed for divorce from Mary Elizabeth Zelasko in 2011 and got the divorce in 2018. So that $1 ticket was apparently part of their assets. "Marital property includes all property acquired from the date of marriage until the date of entry of the divorce decree," ruled an arbitrator the couple had appointed to sort out thorny divorce issues. He found that as "losses throughout the marriage were incurred jointly, so should winnings be shared jointly." Bottom line: The dollar spent on that ticket was "a joint investment."

The arbitrator awarded $15 million to Mary, and last week an appeals court ruled in her favor on the narrow issue of whether the arbitrator had made any legal mistake, per the Washington Post. Needless to say, Richard's attorney didn't agree: "Rich was lucky, but it was his luck, not Mary's, that produced the lottery proceeds," said Scott Bassett in a court filing, per the Detroit Free Press. Bassett has also filed an appeal brief, and a reconsideration motion was made on Richard's behalf. But another one of Richard's lawyers, who dates the couple's separation to 2009, admits "it's very difficult to overturn an arbitration." (How's this for luck: In a fluke, a guy opens a safe that's been locked for 40 years.)

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