Varney: It was a landmark divorce settlement- 1 billion dollars for the wife of fracking billionaire, Harold Hamm. But now he says he can’t pay because the price of oil is so cheap. Joining us from Denver, divorce attorney Sharon Liko. Sharon, come on. He’s crying poverty and he’s worth billions. He is going to lose right?
Sharon Liko: That’s right. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. Uh, yeah, he’s going to lose. It’s really hard to overturn a judge’s decision. The appellate court can reverse a district court judge only if the judge made an error in applying the law or abused their discretion. Assuming the judge understood the law he applied, they have to find an abuse of discretion. For example, if she’s used to spending a hundred million a year on her upkeep and she’s fifty eight years old. A billion dollar probably isn’t going to cut it for the rest of her life.
Varney: So she gets more?
Sharon Liko: Then she gets more. But if she can live on less than that, that’s it man.
Varney: But he said, Sharon, he said at the original settlement. He thanked the judge and called it on record “equitable”. Doesn’t that essentially get him thrown out right there?
Sharon Liko: Equitable doesn’t mean equal. Equitable means fair. So if the husband doesn’t think it’s fair but the judge felt it was equitable at the time he made the decision. It makes it too bad for the husband and he has to live with it.
Varney: I love it, but I’m not a lawyer. I just play one on TV. Let me go to someone who is studying law.
Co-Host: Sharon, it seems like Mr. Hamm has quite a bit of audacity. You look at his one billion dollars that permitted him to keep ninety-four percent of his eighteen billion dollar increase of his stock shares during their twenty-six years of marriage. If that’s not fair, what is?
Sharon Liko: Well, you’ve got to look at their law in Oklahoma. And he started this company or had his ownership for twenty years prior to getting married. So that twenty years the value of the business for those twenty years and the appreciation in that value is his, separate.
Co-Host: Sure. But they were married for twenty six years. She raised their two children and I feel sometimes that’s underestimated. The homemaker, the wife sitting at home taking care of the kids. The value of the role is often underestimated. I think this is one of these cases.
Sharon Liko: Well, I’ve read that she didn’t have any kids, so she was playing the corporate wife and that would be her contribution to the marriage. However, if she was at home eating chocolate bon bons and embarrassed him in public because she was drunk or something. Then the court isn’t going to consider her contribution worth much.
Varney: You know what I’m thinking, Sharon? We need to bring in Mary Chapin Carpenter and play that song “He thinks He’ll Keep Her” from the nineties. But I have to ask you about this right before I let you go. Another billionaire divorce situation. Only this one is beyond me. Elon Musk and his wife are splitting up again. They were married, divorced, remarried in 2013, and now they’re getting a divorce. How often does this happen- that a couple that divorces, gets remarried? How often does that happen and they make it? How often does that happen and they get divorced?
Sharon Liko: It happens rarely. I’ve practiced for thirty years and I’ve had two, three cases where people have remarried. One case they were married for a short time and then divorced no kids and then they got remarried, had four kids, and several million dollars to divide and another case they were married for about equal parts of time. And it becomes more complicated when they get married and divorce a second time dividing the separate from the marital property, but you know people make snap decisions sometimes. They get divorced out of fear, anger, and they’re not ready emotionally. And obviously these people weren’t.
And back to Mr. Hamm, the wife is going to have to find some way to scrape by on a billion dollars. That’s all there is to it.
Varney: And you know, Sharon, I’ve got to tell you before I let you go. One billion dollars does not go as far as it used to.
Sharon Liko: It sure doesn’t.
Varney: Thank you and Happy New Year.