Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, December 1, 2014

Billion $ Divorce

From Sean Williams (University of Texas), guest blogging for Concurring Opinions:

A few weeks ago, an Oklahoma judge was tasked with dividing Harold and Sue Ann Hamm’s $2Billion marital estate. And the judge’s only guidance was to divide it in any way that was, in his mind, “fair,” “just,” and “reasonable.”  Billion dollar divorces like this one highlight long-known problems with divorce law. Namely, that courts have wide and almost unreviewable discretion over many aspects of a divorcing couples’ lives.  When I ask students in my family law class how they would divide a particular marital estate, I generally get a lot of variation.  Many people choose 50%-50%, a substantial number choose 66%-34% or 75%-25%, but there are always a lot of students who choose more extreme divisions, like 90%-10%.  This highlights the lottery-like aspect of many family law issues.

But what can be done? I want to float a controversial idea, and then very briefly explain why it deserves serious attention.

Here’s the idea: Let local governments (like city councils) weigh in on how local judges should exercise their discretion.

Read more here.

MR

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2014/12/billion-divorce.html

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Comments

Your idea of allowing local governments weigh in on judges decisions is interesting. Would that destroy the way our current judicial system currently works? What would be the pros and cons of this plan?
Mark Leach | http://www.lindsaysavona.com

Posted by: Mark Leach | Dec 4, 2014 1:04:39 PM

Wow, this is the most expensive divorce that I have ever heard of before. It would be interesting to read some of the case notes from the family lawyers involved. That would be such an interesting career.

http://www.iannonelawri.com

Posted by: Simon Adair | Dec 5, 2014 11:29:29 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't their marital estate far greater than $2 billion during the time of the divorce? Wealth-X alleged their estate exceeded $20 billion as of August, 2014. This is part of the reason why Mrs. Hamm's attorney, Ron Barber, will likely appeal the judgement since she received less than 6 percent of the entire estate.

Posted by: AmeriTrust Law Group | Dec 12, 2014 8:32:10 AM

Why on earth would anyone make such a drastic division? Shouldn't it be equal since both persons own the property? I suppose marriages don't really end on good terms though, so I would imagine some folks would be irrational when dealing with these things. I just find it crazy since my parents were both very civil to each other during their divorce.

http://www.topalianlaw.com/Family-Law-Whittier-CA.html

Posted by: Rose Henderson | Dec 17, 2014 8:19:33 AM

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