The old saying goes 'happy wife, happy life'. Well, apparently that applies even if she's your divorcee. When Richard Zelasko won the $80 million Mega Millions jackpot he expected to take home every penny, but things don't always go how you want.
Little did he know, he wouldn't only be losing more than half of it to tax but, his ex-wife would also be coming after what is rightfully hers. This is something that seriously only happens in movies, What Happens In Vegas, to be specific, only this time we don't have Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz to make the situation a little bit funnier.
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Richard Zelasko's life changed when he became a multi-millionaire instantly after winning $80 million dollars back in 2013. This poor guy got his first dose of heartbreak when $80 million turned into $38 million after fees and taxes. Now, that's still a fortune, but the worst was only yet to come.
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Richard and his former wife, Mary Elizabeth Zelasko, married in 2004 and they now share three children together. They were happily married for a few years until, for unknown reasons, they decided to split up. The former lovers filed for divorce late in the year 2011.
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By the time Zelasko bought the winning lottery ticket his divorce with Elizabeth had gone to arbitration but had still not yet been finalized. The former couple was still waiting on the arbitrator's verdict as to how their assets would be distributed, and during this time they were separated and living lives outside their failing marriage.
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The arbitrator declared that the winning ticket was part of the married couple's assets as it was bought with money that was still considered equally theirs. According to the arbitrator the "marital property includes all property acquired from the date of marriage until the date of entry of the divorce decree," including "property acquired during a separation."
The arbitrator also gave his opinion and suggested that "(a)s losses throughout the marriage were incurred jointly, so should winnings be shared jointly."
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Although Richard had only spent $1 on the ticket "the dollar spent was arguably marital money and, as such, a joint investment," the arbitrator said. Richard's lawyer, Michael Robbins, tried to fight the verdict. However, he said that "It's very difficult to overturn an arbitration."
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This must have been a bitter pill for Richard to swallow, considering he and his wife had been separated since 2009. They were living completely different lives when this occurred.
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Their divorce was only finalized in 2018 after a long, drawn-out process. As for Richard, his lawyer explained that he is allowed to challenge the appeal and is "considering his options." Both parties have chosen to remain silent on the story as it is still a sensitive and confidential matter. On the bright side, $15 million is still a great amount to have as a bank balance.