Sue Ann Hamm’s billion dollar divorce: Hope and a pre-nuptial


WASHINGTON, November 16, 2014 — News of the recent divorce settlement between Harold Hamm, oil tycoon, and Sue Ann Hamm, who is to receive an estimated $1 billion, provides an opportunity to consider, even for those of lesser economic prowess, the steps they should take before saying “I do.”

The stock legal advice for getting married: Agree to and sign a prenuptial agreement. Others have different, but not necessarily exclusive ideas.

The difference between an ordinary marriage and an extraordinary marriage is in giving just a little ‘extra’ every day, as often as possible, for as long as we both shall live. — Fawn Weaver

Social scientists and statistics suggest that waiting a while longer before getting married is a good idea. They also suggest that waiting a bit longer to have children can help avoid splitting up.

Visions of forever together, eternal love, soul-mate, life partner and unrelenting happiness are wonderfully desirable; certainly nothing can be more fulfilling than attaining life-long happiness with another person. Some statistics indicate that since 2000, fewer people are getting married, and that the United States has the fifth highest divorce rate in the world, with 3.4 divorces for every 1000 people.

In ten years, statistics may change drastically, with different views of marriage and its role in society — including social and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage — supplanting today’s views.

In 2004, the George Barna Research Group published a study that said Massachusetts had the lowest divorce rate of 2.4 per 1000 population, and Texas had the highest, with a rate of 4.1 per 1000 population.

These low, single-digit numbers jar the popular and often-reported notion that “half the people who get married get divorced.”

The truth is that there are few, if any, studies that report a divorce rate of fifty percent.

Statistics demand interpretation. A 2014 study by a group called Divorce Source provides an excellent analysis of the percentages and the number of divorces. They note:

… overall, the divorce rate shot up after World War II, then declined, only to rise again in the 1960s and 1970s, and then leveled off during the 1980s, but in trying to give meaning to these statistics great care must be taken. According to the National Marriage Project, the “overall divorce rate” peaked at 22.6 divorces per 1,000 marriages in 1980, 20.9 in 1990, and 18.8 in 2000.

In her 2014 book The Good News About Marriage, Harvard-trained researcher Shaunti Feldhahn  says that approximately 20-25 percent of first time marriages end in divorce, that the overall rate of divorce is dropping, that the “50% number” has never been even close (to reality), and that for married churchgoers, their likelihood of divorcing is in the single digits or teens.

Feldhahn says four out of five marriages are happy. She says this finding up-ends the popularly cited 30 percent much research reports. She says that not knowing the true statistics often leads couples to avoid marriage and just “shack up” because the “more than half” numbers often cited lead to a futile “why even bother” attitude. The attitude, she says, is based on false information and if corrected, could lead to more marriages.

Feldhahn’s research also provides hope for married couples: “if you stay married for five years, eighty percent of those will be happy five years later,” suggesting that most unhappily married couples can turn it around.

Divorce Source (2014) quotes researchers who suggest that a “better way” to understand the numbers in divorce “calculates how many people who ever married subsequently divorced. Counted this way, the divorce rate has never exceeded 41 percent and is even now edging down.

Rupert Murdoch’s 2013 divorce from Wendi Deng: $1.8 billion

Rupert Murdoch’s 1998 divorce from Anna Maria Torv: $1.7 billion

Mel Gibson’s 2006 divorce from Robyn Moore Gibson: $425 million.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2011 divorce from Maria Shriver: $250 – $375 million

Michael Jordan’s 2006 divorce from Juanita Jordan: $168 million.

Neil Diamond’s 1994 divorce from Marcia Murphey: $150 million.

Garth Brooks’ divorce from Sandy Mahl: $125 million.

Tiger Wood’s divorce from Elin Nordgren: $100 million.

My husband and I have never considered divorce… murder sometimes, but never divorce.”  Dr. Joyce Brothers

Legal advice, again, tells couples that if the marriage goes bad, conduct a complete asset check on your spouse. Despite all the good-times talk of never hiding anything, complete trust and complete honesty, after investigating, divorce attorneys constantly find secreted money, property and other assets, all of which might then be included in a marital division.

Hope springs eternal. The statistics do not mean anything when two people, hoping for a perfect, happy and long life together make the commitment. When they walk down the aisle or up to the Justice of the Peace, they believe that their marriage has been made in the heaven. Divorce statistics? Irrelevant. They must apply to someone else.

Even those divorced have hope. Many who divorce try again, convinced that this time they have found Mr. or Ms. Right. Remarriage statistics, like those offering “truth” about divorce rates, are wildly different, depending upon the source.

Wikipedia, if considered a source, says that the majority of people who have divorced (close to 80%) go on to marry again. On average, they remarry in just less than 4 years after divorcing; younger adults tend to remarry more quickly than older adults. For women, just over half remarry in less than 5 years, and by 10 years after a divorce 75% have remarried.

The American Sociological Association, presenting findings in Montreal, Canada, in August, 2006, reports that 91% of divorced people remarry.

Sharon Jayson, in USA Today reported in September, 2013, that in 2011, 29 of 1000 divorced or widowed Americans remarried, “down” from 1990, when 50 of every 1000 remarried.

So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday. Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

Marriage isn’t a love affair. It isn’t even a honeymoon. It’s a job. A long hard job, at which both partners have to work, harder than they’ve worked at anything in their lives before. If it’s a good marriage, it changes, it evolves, but it keeps on getting better.  Rosamunde Pilcher, Wild Mountain Thyme

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. Mignon McLaughlin

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. Robert Quillen


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

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Paul Samakow
Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise and analysis from the trenches of the courtroom to Communities Digital News. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980 practicing in the DC metro area. Paul can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email @ [email protected], or through his website @ He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.