Michigan man ordered to pay $15 million in lottery winnings to ex-wife

The lucky Mega Millions ticket amounted to a joint investment, the Court of Appeals ruled.
Image: Mega Millions Jackpot Becomes Largest Prize In U.S. History at $1.6 Billion
A Michigan man was ordered by a court to pay $15 million of his lottery winnings to his former wife.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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By David K. Li

A suburban Detroit man who won an $80 million lottery jackpot must share it with his ex-wife, a Michigan court ruled.

Rich Zelasko was ordered to pay $15 million to ex-wife Mary Zelasko by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which earlier this month affirmed an arbitrator's finding.

Zelasko won an $80 Mega Millions jackpot on July 5, 2013, which amounted to $38.3 million after taxes and other deductions. The big score came less than two years after he and Mary Zelasko both filed for divorce after seven years of marriage.

Michigan's appellate court agreed with the arbitrator's ruling in 2013 that: "Defendant spent $1.00 to purchase the winning lottery ticket, however the dollar spent was arguably marital money and, as such, a joint investment."

Further complicating the matter was the arbitrator's death in 2014. Rich Zelasko insisted the late arbitrator's ruling should be set aside, but the appeals court said that sudden passing didn't negate a proper ruling.

They have three children, and their divorce was finalized last year.

In their time together, Mary Zelasko was a sales associate who earned from $100,000 to $120,000 a year while Rich Zelasko owned his own business, making about $36,000 annually, according to the court.