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US wife granted $7m a month in divorce says she was 'short-changed'

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Sue Ann Hamm is hoping to get more than $1bn. Photo: REUTERS/Steve Sisney/Files

Sue Ann Hamm is hoping to get more than $1bn. Photo: REUTERS/Steve Sisney/Files

REUTERS

Sue Ann Hamm is hoping to get more than $1bn. Photo: REUTERS/Steve Sisney/Files

Sue Ann Hamm, the ex-wife of US oil magnate Harold Hamm who was awarded cash and assets worth more than $1bn in the couple's divorce this week, plans to appeal the judgment on grounds that it grossly undervalues the marital wealth she is entitled to.

As part of the settlement she will be paid about $7m (€5.6m) a month, but she is claiming that she was short-changed by a ruling that allows the Continental Resources chief executive to keep nearly all of an estimated $18bn rise in his Continental shares during a 26-year marriage. Ms Hamm plans to appeal the decision, Ron Barber, one of the attorneys on her legal team, said yesterday.

The decision was "not equitable", he said.

Earlier this week, Oklahoma County Court Judge Howard Haralson ordered the Continental Resources CEO to pay his ex-wife $995m (€794m) and allowed her to keep additional assets, including a California ranch and an Oklahoma home, worth tens of millions more.

The Hamm v Hamm divorce judgment is one of the largest in US history, but the award to Ms Hamm is a small fraction of the wealth Mr Haralson allowed Mr Hamm to keep.

The CEO holds more than 68pc of Continental's stock, a stake valued at around $13.5bn today. It was worth more than $18bn before the nine-and-a-half-week divorce trial began in August.

Continental shares have fallen sharply since then, in line with global oil prices. Mr Haralson ruled that $1.4bn of the growth in his Continental shares during the marriage was "marital capital" to be split with Ms Hamm. The rest was awarded to Mr Hamm as "separate property".

"Sue Ann is disappointed in the outcome of this case. She dedicated 25 years as Harold's faithful partner in family and business," Mr Barber told Reuters. "She plans to appeal the court's decision."

A lawyer and economist, Ms Hamm worked at Continental during stretches of the couple's marriage, which began in 1988. 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 Mr Haralson's judgment, or modify the award. It could also send the case back to Mr Haralson to be re-tried.

Family law experts say the process could take anywhere from 18 months to several years. As part of the ruling, Mr Haralson ordered Mr Hamm to pay his ex-wife more than $322m by December 31, and continue with monthly payments of at least $7m until he covers an additional $650m balance. She has received around $23m from the marital estate since filing for divorce in 2012. To secure the judgment, Mr Haralson placed a lien on 20m shares of the CEO's Continental stock.

Earlier this week, Craig Box, an attorney for Mr Hamm, said the CEO considered Mr Haralson's ruling "fair and equitable".

Irish Independent