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Does A Single Mom Have To Split Lottery Winnings With Her Estranged Husband?

Holly Lahti is one lucky single mom—she won 190 million dollars in the Mega Millions lottery.  But, she didn’t come forward to claim her prize for at least two days and lottery officials announced that Holly wanted the media to please respect her privacy. She’s 29, a single mom to two young children and worked as a bank teller but immediately quit after winning big—and disappeared from the town of Rathdrum, Idaho. Sources say she’s on a beach with her kids thinking things over. What is there to think over? You won big, baby! Not so fast.

According to news reports this is no Cinderella story. Lahti was charged with battery in 2003, but the charges were dropped. A mug shot of Holly with a black eye has been making the rounds. Her estranged husband Joshua is also no stranger to legal troubles—he’s been charged at least 9 times from driving under the influence, second-degree kidnapping and domestic abuse. Since Holly and Joshua are not legally divorced, legal experts are saying that she has to split the winnings with him, which could explain her absence from media appearances and abrupt departure from her job and home.

Neighbors from the small town say Holly should get to keep the entire windfall regardless of still being married—a nice idea, but not exactly the law. According to defense attorney, Rikki Klieman, the only way Holly could potentially keep the 190 million (which she’d likely take in a lump sum of 120 million) is if she proves the lottery ticket was a gift given to only her. Regardless of Joshua’s current relationship with Holly, the two are still legally wed and that union means he’s entitled to half. I’ll be honest, this guy doesn’t seem like a nice husband or loving dad, but if she didn’t divorce him then maybe that’s her problem. I mean, if he’s not entitled to half of these winnings, what does that say about John Doe, a nice guy, who gets divorced in that town. Does his wife get to keep EVERYTHING? See what I mean?

Now half of 120 million dollars is still 60 million dollars, so if a court does decide Joshua is entitled then Holly will still have a ton of money to invest and live off. Klieman suggested the couple split the money three ways and that 40 million go into a trust that their two children would split when they turn 18. I like this idea a lot, but maybe because I’m a single mom who desperately tries to save money for her kid—and it’s HARD.

I have a vase on my kitchen counter. It’s shaped like a bottle and when I was in the hospital after giving birth to JD, my friend Liss gave it to me. At the time it was filled with blue and purple flowers. When the flowers died I kept the vase on the kitchen counter in our one-bedroom apartment and when I moved I placed it on the new kitchen counter. I fill it with change and dollars whenever the mood strikes—at least once a week. My family and friends often throw handfuls of change in it too. When it’s heavy, JD and I go to the bank and we toss the change into the coin machine. I take the receipt and gather the bills from the vase and I deposit it into JD’s CD where all of his baptism, birthday and holiday gifts are. Sometimes it’s just $15, but one time it was $80. I love that JD partakes in this too. I want him to always be responsible with his money, because I was not. I was 26 and pregnant and had basically no cash saved because I was working to pay my obscene NYC rent—and buy shoes and sushi and trips to Paris—d’oh!

I’m sure we can all agree that as parents with monthly reoccurring bills (you have no idea how many times I hear myself saying, Crap, it’s the first again?) and pre-school tuition (= day care so I can work) it’s hard to save money for your child when you're getting through the month providing the basics—shelter, food, clothing, car, child care service, healthcare, and an IRA contribution.

I’m hoping that regardless of what becomes of this fortune that Holly secures her kids’ educations and futures—a lot of you are probably thinking, of course she will, but lottery winners are known to spend big and spend fast and then poof—there is NOTHING left. And the winners are dead or addicted to drugs. (Not everyone, but this does happen according to E! Investigates The Curse of the Lottery.)

Mama’s Boy Tip: If you’re having trouble saving for your child right now, put a jar or piggy bank on the kitchen counter. Toss a nickel in. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but trust me, if the piggy bank is there right in front of you, you’ll find yourself tossing money in and it will add up. When I get a coffee from the Dunkin Donuts drive-through I put the change from the purchase in this little nook in my car. At the end of the month, I put that change in JD’s jar. Stuff like that, it’s easy!

What do you think? Should Holly get to keep the winnings all to herself? Should Joshua get half? Do you think splitting the money three ways is a good idea? Do you play the lotto? (I don't, but maybe I should.) Ever win the lotto? Do you have a savings account or college fund for your child set up? How do you save for your kids when the economy is so bad?

I'm on Facebook and Twitter @JDSMOM2007.