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The Hamm Divorce Shocker We Didn’t See Coming

The judge has reached a verdict in the divorce between Harold and Sue Ann Hamm and one of the parties is less than thrilled with the outcome. Here’s a hint: things didn’t play out like most predicted.

What was going to be the world’s largest divorce settlement has been in the works for more than a year now. With many reputable papers and lawyers predicting a settlement of $4-8 billion, you can probably guess we were a little shocked to learn that on Nov. 10, Judge Howard Haralson awarded Sue Ann Hamm less than $1 billon – a mere six percent of the wealth the couple accumulated during their marriage.

What happened?

As you may remember from our previous article, Harold did not have a prenuptial agreement, which could have been used to take certain assets off the table when it comes to distribution between divorcing parties. The one thing Harold had going for him was an Oklahoma law stating that the money a spouse earns during marriage can only be part of a divorce settlement if acquired through skill.

The (quite literally) billion-dollar question that determined the fate of the Hamm’s estate was, “How did Harold acquire his billions” – was it dumb luck or skill? The decision would ultimately be left to the interpretation of Judge Haralson. Lucky for Harold, Judge Haralson contributed little of the $14 billion gain in Continental Resources’ stock to either spouse. Here is a link to the case’s Nov. 10 memorandum order for those interested in the details.

“The Hamm v. Hamm trial should serve as a reminder that you are taking a gamble with your assets when you choose to forgo a prenuptial agreement,” says San Diego divorce attorney John Griffith. “Mr. Hamm’s settlement could have just as easily been in the billions, as predicted.”

But it’s not over yet.

Even though Sue Ann will have become one of one of the wealthiest women in the United States after all payments from the settlement are received, she isn’t smiling. In fact, she and her lawyers are fighting back for what they feel is a fair amount. And they are citing more than 78 alleged errors and missteps that led to a judge undervaluing her stake in what is one of America’s largest fortunes, according to this Reuters article.

Postnuptial agreements

If recent high-asset divorces such as the Hamm’s or Dmitry Rybolovlev’s have you sweating bullets because you didn’t sign a prenup, consider a postnuptial agreement. Postnuptial agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements, but initiated and signed after marriage.

“Just don’t wait until you see signs of trouble in your marriage before you initiate the agreement,” says Griffith. “The other party may not be as willing to cooperate if they see divorce as unavoidable.”

Call today for advice on how to protect your assets before, during or after your marriage. Divorce can be messy, but our skilled team of lawyers is passionate about helping make it as smooth a process as possible for our clients.