The information provided below is general in nature and should not be relied upon legal advice. You should call 03 5445 1000 and speak to a lawyer at OFRM about your particular circumstances.

Family Law: The Punter's Perspective

Now to me there are not many things more exciting than spring racing — the frocks, the hats, the party, a day on the punt.

Being a family lawyer as well as a keen punter, my mind often turns to how a big win or a big loss at the track can pan out in later family law proceedings.

There's not too many things more tragic than when a relationship fails due to tensions arising out of one party's gambling problems. Sadly, it is something I see happen all to often in practice, although more commonly from pokies than ponies.

This situation arises so often in family law there is a good swathe of case law about it. The effects of gambling can impact on a property settlement in a few ways.

If there are gambling debts still in existence at the time of the separation, usually as an increase in a mortgage obtained to cover gambling debts or credit cards that were used for gambling, then those debts may be considered not to be joint debts of the marriage but rather the sole responsibility of the gambling party who incurred them.

Another way could be that money spent and long gone on gambling may be able to be accounted for and characterised as a negative contribution, detracting away from the contribution of that party and effectively giving the other party a loading on their contributions.

A more positive note is the consideration of how a family law court would consider a big win. To be seen as something the court would look at specifically the win would need to be fairly substantial, in at least the tens of thousands of dollars; but probably even more than that.

There aren't too many times the court has been asked to consider a horse racing win like that but there have been many cases where the parties Tattslotto win has been argued over. In those cases it has been argued that the ticket belonged to one or other of the parties but the law was finally settled in this area in the 90's with such wins during the marriage been seen as joint and a windfall. That is not a contribution by one or other party but something that just came their way.

So, enjoy your day at the Bendigo Cup tomorrow: make sure you both party and gamble responsibly.