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Filthy rich divorced couples: Why you should (or shouldn’t) emulate them

Filthy rich divorced couples: Why you should (or shouldn’t) emulate them

Having lots of money solves lots of problems. One of the few exceptions is when you’re dividing substantial marital wealth. Or when you and your ex can’t agree whether a $150K footwear allowance for your child is reasonable. That said, having lots of money also solves lots of divorce-related problems.

It's a lot easier for mega-rich exes to split their billions, divide shares of stock, and iron out the details of child custody arrangements thanks to their truckloads of money. Some billionaires are smart about their divorce, while some make million-dollar mistakes.

Keeping the details of their divorce off Google: Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki

In 2015, the divorce of Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife of eight years, Anne Wojcicki, was finalized. Unlike many high-net-worth couples, Sergey and Anne mostly kept the details of their divorce private.

When they split in 2013, it seemed like there was going to be serious implications for Google share prices. But there wasn’t, which may have to do with them having a prenuptial agreement that covered all the bases and ensured the billion-dollar internet empire didn’t go down.

Despite the complications of the separation — mainly, Mr. Brin’s alleged affair with Google employee Amanda Rosenberg, the ex-couple’s many joint business projects, and Ms. Wojcicki’s sister Susan Wojcicki being a top executive at Google at the time of split — the exes had an animosity-free divorce.

It's nice to see a couple fight very hard to have a truly amicable separation, resulting in drama-free child custody arrangements and happier Google shareholders.

Slick as oil: Harold Hamm

Most people would never know what it’s like to have $975 million (or more) under their name. Oil and gas tycoons and their spouses are not like “most people.”

In 2012, Sue Ann Arnall filed for divorce from her husband, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm. Mr. Hamm’s net worth then was around $18 billion, which would have been substantially reduced if he hadn’t thought on his toes. To assuage the problem, he wrote her a check for $975 million as alimony.

That’s nice and all, but could Sue Ann have gotten more than $975 million? Yes, she could have, and it’s interesting to note that the former Mrs. Hamm reportedly rejected the alimony. As it turned out, Mrs. Hamm was due to receive a sum much closer to billion dollars, which included the $20 million that Mr. Hamm already paid her during the divorce proceedings.

Eventually, Sue Ann ended up depositing the handwritten check into her bank account. And when she did, she was set for life. But what exactly is the amount that sets one for life? If you thought, around $900 million, you’re wrong. It’s not even within the ballpark of what the likes of Mackenzie Bezos and the former Mrs. Hamm got from their respective divorce settlements. Some peg the amount at around $5 million as the standard, so the former Mrs. Hamm is set for several lifetimes.

This case proves that if your about-to-be ex-spouse writes you a check worth hundreds of millions of dollars, there would arguably be very little to complain about. At the very least, you and your ex will be moved to duke it out in private, as the former Mr. and Mrs. Hamm supposedly did.

That’s inspiring.

Meanwhile, here’s how NOT to handle your divorce.

Two opposing teams: Frank and Jamie McCourt

Former Los Angeles Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt were married for 30 years but separated due to infidelity and insubordination, among many other reasons, and they required a battalion of lawyers.

Long story short, their refusal to see eye to eye resulted in a protracted court battle, millions of dollars in legal fees, and a bankrupt baseball team — all because neither of them had team spirit.

Dividing millions of marital assets is often complex, but it can get even more so when emotions run wild and when both spouses are fiercely strong-willed individuals like the McCourts. The ownership of the Dodgers was particularly contentious; Frank claimed sole ownership of the team while Jamie claimed she was co-owner at the time of divorce.

California, like Washington state, is a community property state, which makes the Dodgers the McCourt’s community property. However, it was later revealed that Jamie signed a marital property agreement handing over ownership to her husband. That was just one of their disagreements as team McCourt.

For billionaires, topping Forbes’ Billionaires list is an achievement. Making it in “most expensive divorce” lists is not. Seattle family law attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams help clients in Renton with their divorce settlements and more, whether they’re dividing coins or billions.