Insights and inspiration
Hamming It Up
22 December 2014
In Australia, divorce and its consequences such as property settlement are a matter of Federal law, uniform throughout Australia. In the USA, they vary state by state, with some states having what they call "equitable distribution", others note all marital property is common property, and variations of emphasis in between.
Although the legal approaches differ, as both of them differ from out matrimonial property regime, it is surprising how often the results seem to be similar. Of course, there are many cases where the differences are dramatic.
Appropriately to the season, one dramatic case involved Mr & Mrs Hamm in Okalahoma. I imagine that after this case, both Hamms were feeling a little glazed.
Mr Hamm started an oil company 21 years before he married Mrs Hamm. At the time of the case the value of his stake (sorry, can't keep away from meat here) in the oil company was somewhere between USD$13 and USD$18 billion.
The court had to decide how much of that was due to the joint endeavours of Mr & Mrs Hamm, and if the answer was a lot of most of it, Mr Hamm's stake would have been cut to the bone (there we go again).
The court decided that most of the growth in Mr Hamm's shares was just due to market movements, and nothing to do with the efforts or skills of either of them. For that reason, Mrs Hamm got a mere billion dollars, barely enough for the mustard. Most of us would still be pretty happy but Mrs Hamm has filed an appeal.
It is hard to say from the relatively brief report of the case whether an Australian court would have done much differently, but in our view, probably not.
Compliments of the season to all.
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