A $6 million lottery prize is caught in the middle of a break-up between an Ontario man and his common-law spouse.
The 46-year-old Chatham father of three is said to have told his live-in girlfriend a Lotto 6/49 was not a winner before moving out of their home five days after the Sept. 20 draw. She apparently caught wind of the situation when she found out, through mutual friends, that he had quit his job.
The woman filed an emergency court injunction to prevent him from getting his hands on the disputed millions. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has frozen the funds until the matter is resolved.
The spat over the ticket was first reported by the Toronto Star on Thursday.
CTV Legal Analyst Boris Bytensky said the fact that they are not legally married will eliminate some of the division of property rules that would otherwise apply. If the matter goes to court, he said, the fate of the money could be decided by circumstantial evidence, or whoever wins over the judge with their testimony.
“The key to the wife’s claim will be that . . . they had this plan to buy tickets together and share the winnings. Really that is going to be the nub of the case,” Bytensky told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
The couple is said to have been living together for over two years, and was known to regularly buy lottery tickets.
Bytensky said the woman’s best hope for claiming a portion of the money could hinge on emails and texts.
“There may be emails that they have exchanged, or text messages, that they have exchanged in terms of ‘did you buy the lottery tickets this week’ or ‘did you remember to pick up our tickets.’ That kind of communication sometimes is very revealing,” he said. “If there isn’t something along those lines, then really it is going to come down to one person’s word against another.”
Bytensky added these types of matters are regularly settled outside of a court room, even though they are often far more complicated than other lottery disputes.
He said, unlike office lottery pools for example, where participants typically outline formal rules to divide up winnings, such formalities are less common among romantic couples.
“I’m not really sure there is much you can do to protect yourself,” Bytensky said. “It’s not unprecedented. I’m sure it will happen again.”