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How Much Is Too Much?

Recently there was a much publicized divorce in which a self-made billionaire was ordered to pay his wife a one billion dollar divorce settlement.  Mrs. Hamm argued that one billion dollars was too little based on Mr. Hamm’s approximately $20 billion dollar net worth.  Mr. Hamm had argued during the divorce that he should not have to pay his soon to be ex spouse the several billion that she was asking because a: he had created his oil company from the ground up on his own and had been running it for 20 years before marriage and b: because his wealth was mainly due to luck and was dictated by the rise in oil prices. Therefore, no skill involved and his income was out of his control.

In her lifetime and probably even several more, Mrs. Hamm could not possibly spend the one billion dollars in which she was awarded.  She will be getting one third of the settlement by the end of the year and then $7 million per month thereafter.  Who among us could not live on $7 million a month?  For me personally it might be a struggle, but if I slummed it a little bit I could probably get by!  I understand that he is worth much more than what she has been awarded but at some point doesn’t just become about greed and not really what’s fair?  Although that is obviously a two way street.

In a case I am working one party is a very prominent doctor.  The other party was employed by her husband’s practice throughout their marriage.  They had three kids together and lived a pretty nice life.  When they decided to divorce she was asked to resign the practice.  Leaving her unemployed and taking care of three kids as she had done throughout the marriage.  After considering many factors, lifestyle, income, needs of the children, the court awarded her $21,000 per month in child support and maintenance (alimony), which obviously seemed fair to her.  He on the other hand was not so happy. Although he is earning anywhere from $60-100,000 per month, $21,000 would put him in the poor house according to his attorney.  After taxes and all other deductions he could still be bringing home twice as much or more than he was paying out.  But he is arguing that this is too much, she should get a job and support herself.

This begs the question, what really is fair when it comes to child support and maintenance?  In my State we have guidelines that we follow in order to come up with these figures, but when you get to a certain income level it is left totally up to the court’s discretion.  No one ever wants to give up their hard earned money, but if it is in support of your children I would think that no amount would be too much.  Unfortunately these men are not thinking this way, they are only thinking about the money they are losing to an ex-spouse.  They are not thinking that this is the person whom they loved for many years, helped them build their fortune, helped them build a family, stood by them during good times and bad, and is now left to rebuild a life on their own.

In the earlier case I don’t think this should be a problem.  I think she will do just fine, but in the latter case, even though $21,000 is plenty to live on each month, eventually this will end and the only reference she has at this point for employment is an angry ex-husband.  Now she is spending a chunk of this money to defend herself against an appeal of this award by her ex.  If he wins her award could be cut in half, leaving her in a much more precarious position.

I realize not everyone going through a divorce is lucky enough to receive this kind of settlement or anything even close, or sometimes nothing at all.  And some of those who do get an award have to fight tooth and nail every month or so just to get it.

So to Mrs. Hamm I say, stop being a greedy pig, I think 1 billion dollars is plenty, and if you don’t want it send it over here!

On a final note, with a 50% divorce rate in this country it’s nice to see when two people do fall in love and decide to get married.  Today Charles Manson obtained a marriage license.  Congratulations Charlie!  If he could find a nice woman to marry him despite committing several murders and spending his entire life in jail, then there’s hope for us all!! Better get a prenup though.

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