Published on 28 February, 2024 | Martin Loxley

“Money”, it has been said, “can’t buy you happiness”.

The validity of that statement, I believe, depends on individual circumstances rather than being a universal truth.

I also don’t think that it’s uppermost in the mind of the millions of people who buy lottery tickets and scratchcards each week.

One couple – or, should I say, former couple – have found out for themselves.

Charlotte Cox and Michael Cartlidge are in dispute after she won a £1 million jackpot on a scratchcard and ended their relationship several weeks later.

Mr Cartlidge, from Spalding, in Lincolnshire, is now claiming that he should be entitled to half of that sum (

He maintains that they had made plans to share the cash, including opening a joint account and buying a home together.

The lottery operator, however, has determined that Ms Cox is the sole recipient.

As I have told BBC TV’s ‘Look North’ regional news programme, the row is actually of broader significance than which of these two individuals should be blessed by a substantial slice of lottery luck.

In my opinion, it actually highlights the differences between the rights upon separation of married and cohabiting couples.

Generally speaking, those people who divorce are able under family law to claim a share of joint marital assets, while those who live together without marrying currently cannot and, instead, have to justify a demand under property legislation.

To substantiate any such claim, Mr Cartlidge would need to show either that he had contributed to the purchase of the winning scratchcard or provide evidence of their plans to spend the money together.

Ideally – and as the lottery operator Allwyn has also told the BBC – there would have been a written agreement in place, something which had not been done in this instance.

Things are more straightforward for married couples, including those who break apart.

Even so, as with all the financial aspects of divorce, it is essential that things are dealt with properly in order to avoid loose ends.

In 2010, the ex-wife of Nigel Page received £2 million in an out-of-court settlement shortly after he won a EuroMillions lottery jackpot of £56 million (,of%20%C2%A31m%20turned%20down).

She was able to do so because when they divorced, there was no agreement in place preventing them making a future claim against each other in the event of a lottery win, inheritance or business success.

I have also acted for a client whose spouse received half of a multi-million pound lottery payout won soon after they had split up because there was no formal separation agreement in place at the time that they walked out of the marital home.

If such windfalls occur when spouses are still together, it’s far easier and more compelling to suggest that they are part of what is known in legal phraseology as ‘matrimonial acquest’: assets acquired during the marriage or civil partnership.

The legal distinctions between the rights of husbands, wives and cohabitees whether lottery winners or not is something which has exercised couples, commentators, family law practitioners and politicians for some time.

In June last year, the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee lamented a Government decision not to tackle the consequences of the enduring “myth” of the common law spouse just yet (

Ministers have refused to do so until the Law Commission has published its scoping paper on possible reforms to the process by which financial settlements are determined on divorce (

Caroline Nokes MP, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, argued that any delay might mean cohabitees experiencing problems for “many years” to come.

Much as some people are convinced of the power of positive thinking in helping us pick winning lottery numbers, no-one can be sure of what’s around the corner or what impact fortunate prospective circumstances may have on our relationships.

We can’t know for sure whether to draw parallels between the UK and Swedish research showing that men who win the lottery are more likely to marry – and stay married – while such sudden wealth is more likely to spur their female counterparts to divorce (

Regardless of being married or not, divorce and discord is always best avoided by being clear.

That means taking legal advice and setting intentions down in writing, either in a nuptial or cohabitation agreement.

If not, individuals might find that it’s not only instant lottery cards but entire relationships which end up being scratched.

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