A couple who split up three years after they scooped a first division Lotto win have ended up in a long-running and acrimonious WA Family Court dispute after each claimed they were the winner of the almost $300,000 prize.
Seven years after the couple separated, their battle has ended with the court ruling that the former husband was entitled to an 80 per cent share of the suburban house bought with the Lotto winnings.
In a decision released yesterday, Justice Jane Crisford said the house was by far the most valuable asset in the couple's potential property pool and the history of its acquisition and ownership lay at the heart of the dispute.
The couple cannot be identified and are referred to as "Katherine and Colin Fielding" by the judge.
Justice Crisford ruled the couple's contribution to the Lotto win was divided 65 to 35 per cent in Mr Fielding's favour.
She took into account evidence that the couple usually bought separate Lotto tickets and though Mr Fielding was a "fairly large" Lotto player, Ms Fielding would never spend more than $2 or $3.
"I have little reason to doubt that Katherine may well have provided Colin the $30 to buy the ticket," Justice Crisford said. "I accept it is likely she was in the newsagency when the ticket was bought. But it is clear their attitude to the buying of such tickets was very different.
"Although Katherine collected the winnings, I am satisfied the money was seen by the parties as Colin's money and he was the driving force in buying the property."
Taking into account that Mr Fielding had been solely responsible for maintaining and improving the property since 2005 and it was the overwhelming contribution to his superannuation, Justice Crisford increased his share in the total asset pool to 80 per cent.
The court awarded Mr Fielding assets to the value of $318,000 but Justice Crisford said he would have to pay $100,000 from his share to settle a court-ordered debt he had failed to pay to a previous wife.
The decision, delivered last month after hearings in February and June, reveals Mr and Ms Fielding were in the early stages of their relationship when they won a first division Lotto prize of $293,775.35 on March 2, 2002.
In July 2002, the money was used to buy a property in the name of Mr Fielding's sister. The couple separated for a short time before reconciling in mid-2003, when Ms Fielding joined her partner to live at the property. The couple married in January 2004 and moved into rental accommodation a year later, renting out the shared property.
They separated in August 2005 and Mr Fielding returned to live at the property.
In the court dispute, Ms Fielding alleged she had won the Lotto prize and her former husband and his sister had used the winnings fraudulently to buy the house.
Mr Fielding said he had won the Lotto prize and the property was put in his sister's name for the benefit of his two children from his earlier marriage.
Justice Crisford accepted that the property had been placed in the name of Mr Fielding's sister so it could not be called on to satisfy Mr Fielding's debts.