To Share Or Not Share The Lottery Loot

shutterstock_55031182During a recent television appearance on Fox 29 (see clip by clicking here), I was asked to comment on a New Jersey case receiving significant media attention.  A non-married couple, Ines Sanchez and Pedro Quezada,  resided together as a couple for ten years, and a child was born of their relationship.  They also jointly operated a grocery store.  Quezada purchased a lottery ticket and won $338 million. Sanchez accompanied Quezada to the lottery commission where Quezada solely claimed his prize.   At the time, he celebrated his good fortune with Sanchez, and they moved into a new home purchased with his winnings.   Subsequently, the relationship dissolved and Sanchez moved from the home.

Sanchez then filed a claim seeking a portion of the lottery winnings. Last week, Superior Court Judge Margaret Mary McVeigh denied Sanchez’s request to freeze the lottery winnings.  McVeigh referenced the legislation in New Jersey, noting that “[our legislation] specifically said, ‘For these types of arrangements, relationships, to be upheld there needs to be a writing. You cannot go forward with these types of relationships without something in writing.’”

The Judge’s comments referenced  the legal concept of palimony which is essentially an award of support, similar to alimony, given to a dependent party where the couple was in a long term relationship but never married. On January 15, 2010, legislation was signed in New Jersey which prohibited the enforcement of palimony agreements that were not reduced to writing kids air jordan. Based upon this statute, non-married couples that reside together for several years, like husband and wife, during which time one party financially supports the other, have no duty to continue the support after the relationship dissolves unless the promise to support is in the form of a written document which can then be enforced by a Court.

Despite the statute,  there have been recent trial court decisions which appear to allow palimony-like claims survive despite the lack of a written agreement.  Thus, it is questionable whether a claim for support can survive based solely upon a long-term marriage-like relationship.  It appears unlikely, however, that a palimony claim will be the key to Ms. Sanchez’s success in the lottery case especially in light of the Judge’s statement about the necessity of a writing.

The equitable claim of unjust enrichment has also been asserted to compel payment between unmarried parties after the relationship ends.  The Restatement Third of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment § 28 (2011), states: “If two persons have formerly lived together in a relationship resembling marriage, and if one of them owns a specific asset to which the other has made substantial, uncompensated contributions in the form of property or services, the person making such contributions has a claim in restitution against the owner as necessary to prevent unjust enrichment upon the dissolution of the relationship.”

A New Jersey Chancery Division Court denied an unjust enrichment claim for homemaking services during a relationship, but recognized that a claim could be made for unjust enrichment of the boyfriend’s business for services performed by the girlfriend. (Carney v. Hansell, 363 N.J. Super. 111, 127 (Ch. Div. 2003 ).   In this case, the parties had a towing business that started around the time they met. The girlfriend handled all the paperwork, phone calls, and pricing, but was never named on any of the business accounts or dealings retro air jordan shoes.  The Court found that although she was not a partner in the business, she did have a claim for unjust enrichment in regard to the business. The Court compensated her by calculating the minimum wage she would have earned at the time, minus any checks that she did receive (between $60 and $100 per week).

Unfortunately, the lottery case does not appear to be a situation where the claim of unjust enrichment will prevail.  To be successful, Ms. Sanchez would have to show that she made substantial, uncompensated contributions which resulted in Mr. Quezada’s successful quest to win the lottery.  If hard work alone resulted in lottery success, we would all be millionaires!

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About Family Law Focus
The Family Law Focus blog provides highlights, updates and insights on complex family disputes including divorce, division of property, and alimony; child and spousal support; child custody; domestic violence; pre- and post-nuptial agreements; name changes; and adoption or termination of parental rights.
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The Editor

Jennifer A. Brandt, of Cozen O'Connor's Family Law practice, has represented a wide variety of clients in hundreds of family law cases throughout her career. Jennifer is a regular legal commentator on national and local television outlets such as CNN, Fox New Network, HLN, MSNBC, Fox29, ABC News, NBC and CBS and frequently writes and contributes to articles in numerous publications, including the Huffington Post, Fox Business.com, The PhiIly Post, Avvo.com, Allparenting.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Business Journal, the National Law Journal, and Main Line Today magazine.
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