Financing Options for Spouses in Expensive Divorces
Oilman billionaire Harold Hamm and his wife may be going through the most expensive divorce in history, according to Forbes Magazine. Hamm is worth an estimated $11.3 billion, according to Forbes; his wife, economist Sue Ann Hamm filed for divorce last year and alleged Hamm was having an affair. The newswires pointed out that if the couple had not entered into a prenuptial agreement, Sue Ann would be eligible for a 68 percent stake in Harold's fortune. This would mean, “in essence, the entirely self-made oilman could lose control over the company he founded in 1967,” according to Forbes. The Hamm's' reside in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma state law allows for “equitable distribution,” meaning that a state court will decide what is fair and equitable under the circumstances of a case. (Illinois also applies an equitable distribution scheme in the division and allocation of the marital assets and debts).
This public divorce has brought to light more than just the importance of a prenuptial agreement (in any divorce, but especially one in which the financial stakes are high). The fact that Mr. Hamm can afford protracted litigation and the associated significant legal fees while Sue Ann could not brings up the importance of financing options for the spouse without means to pay legal fees in divorce proceedings.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a new industry has emerged “to help finance the legal costs of breaking up with someone wealthy enough to make a long court fight worth the upfront expense.” The industry emerged in the United States in 2009, giving access to funding for litigants who can't afford a lengthy court battle. This is positive news for people considering divorce but who feel trapped because of legal fees. This can make divorce possible for anyone, regardless of the financial situation of either spouse.
More importantly, Illinois law recognizes both parties right to have quality legal representation in a divorce case, and thus a trial court has the power to award interim fees to a party in need so they can litigate on an equal footing with their spouse.
To help you with your divorce finances, the first step is securing the counsel of a highly qualified and competent divorce lawyer. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, contact one of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC's knowledgeable and dedicated family law attorneys today.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net