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Ex-wife of oil billionaire may appeal alimony decision

A nearly $1 billion divorce settlement sounds like a win to most people. However, when you're talking about oil money, it's a different story. That's why Sue Ann Hamm is reportedly considering appealing the ruling that ordered her now-former husband, oil billionaire Harold Hamm, to pay her $972 million. Under the ruling, Hamm is to pay $323 million to his former wife before the first of the year, and then $7 million each month until the balance is paid. That's just the cash. She's also getting two properties totaling almost $20 million and the couple's livestock, among other assets.

One divorce lawyer noted that after a marriage as long as the Hamms', -- 26 years -- Mrs. Hamm could well have expected to get as much as 30 percent of the couple's marital assets. Another attorney noted that given the amount of money involved and the potential for considerably more to go to Mrs. Hamm, "the expense to attempt an appeal would be justified." One of her attorneys admitted that there had been "a lot of speculation about her recovery being in the multiple billions."

Hamm, whose fortune is said to exceed $16 billion, scored a victory in being allowed to retain most of his majority stake in Continental Resources Inc. where he is chairman. His attorney noted that the 68-year-old, who started life as one of 13 children of an Oklahoma sharecropper, already had the company when he married his wife. He is also retaining the bulk of his other business assets and the couple's investments.

Hamm actually appears to have been prepared to be even more generous to the wife, who according to divorce documents, once traveled with him to look at potential sites for wells and sources of gas and oil, as well as to speaking engagements. According to court documents, she turned down his offer to divide his Continental Resources 401(k), valued at $500,000. He also said in court that it "wouldn't hurt his feelings" if she got his $3 million investment in Orbit Gas Transmission. The judge awarded it to him anyway.

While the vast majority of spousal support settlements do not involve this amount of money or personal property, spouses have every right to ask for an amount that is appropriate for the couple's specific financial situation. Texas legal and financial professionals can help you determine what amount you can and should seek.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Divorce Award Nears $1 Billion; Shale Pioneer Asks for Family Photos, Shotguns" Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Joe Carroll and Zain Shauk, Nov. 11, 2014

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