The high profile divorce case between Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm and his ex-wife Sue Ann Hamm has been widely followed and reported by the press for several reasons since the divorce was filed by Sue Ann Hamm in 2012. The media buzz surrounding the case was largely due to the high net worth assets involved, and rightly so, as Hamm was estimated to be worth $18 billion and earlier this month, the court ordered Hamm to pay his ex-wife a $1 billion as part of their divorce settlement. That makes this the most expensive divorce. Additionally, the divorce proceedings were expected to negatively impact Continental Resources because of Hamm’s position as majority shareholder. And, not surprisingly, within days of the court order, it was reported that Sue Ann Hamm will be appealing the order because she believes the settlement is not equitable. According to Reuters: “In Oklahoma, a divorce appeal can be heard by a State Court of Appeals panel or the Oklahoma Supreme Court. A higher court could review the case and affirm Haralson’s judgment, or modify the award. It could also send the case back to Haralson to be re-tried. Family law experts say the process could take anywhere from 18 months to several years.”

Does it make sense that a divorce lasts longer than a murder trial?

A divorce can be dragged out over years. I hear such stories from family lawyers, divorce professionals and friends and I see this through comments on Divorce Magazine’s facebook page. One of the comments I saw just yesterday on Divorce Magazine’s facebook page was that this person’s divorce took 11 years because, according to him, his spouse has no intention to negotiate. In another case, the divorce went on even longer because of mental illness, according to one other comment. It got me wondering if letting a divorce drag out over such a long period of time is in the interest of all the divorcing couples/families and the rest of us, the tax payers. Most murder trials don’t even last that long, do they?

What if there is a limit on how long a divorce case can go on for?

I’d like to think that the impact of a long drawn out divorce on the family is obvious and is mostly negative. But the impact on the system and tax payers should be considered too. The longer cases take, the more the system has to staff and/or the longer the backlog, which in turn adds to the time it takes for a divorce to be finalized if the court is involved. Most people do not have assets in the billions to dispute over, and their fight, if it is a long one, could be over their children which undoubtedly will result in emotional strains on top of financial strains. Should we let them fight until they are financially and emotionally exhausted? What if there is a limit on how long a divorce can go on for, and when the time is up, the case has to be finalized in court. I’ve known for a long time that deadlines help to move things forward. When a billionaire fights with another billionaire, they have the funds to sustain a long and protracted divorce which ties up the court system and resources. After all, if you have a $1 billion, it is probably worth spending a few million dollars to go after a few billion dollars that you think belong to you. That’s a very good return on investment. But, doesn’t that mean all tax payers, rich or poor, are paying for this? If here was a limit on how long a divorce can go on for, would this help? Or if you are that rich and/or that you think you must keep the case going, can we have them pay for all the costs involved after the maximum number of years allowed?

I would love to hear from others

I am no lawyer, although on more than one occasions, I have been accused of helping family lawyers in extracting fees from their clients.  With this idea of mine, I may stand to be accused of the reverse.  I know where the truth lies and I know lots of family lawyers who are decent professionals making an honest living. So, I am not concerned. I am well aware that with every (possible) solution comes a set of new issues. I don’t even have a set number of years in mind for this idea of limiting how long a divorce can go on for. I would love to hear what you think. Please post your comments and share your thoughts. I am open to changing my point of view because divorce cases can be complicated.