Divorce can be expensive, especially if you have a lot of wealth and no marital agreement to protect it from going on the chopping block in divorce. Readers may have heard of billionaire Harold Hamm, who is currently going through a divorce with his wife of 25 years. The case is an important one in that it could become the most expensive divorce to date, but also because of the legal issues involved.
Hamm’s increase in wealth since he married 25 years ago is currently valued at $17, which could be up for division depending on how Oklahoma law is applied. Under state law, whether or not Hamm’s fortune is subject to division depends specifically on whether the appreciation of marital assets occurred because of his efforts or not.
To the extent the increase was due to his effort, the assets are subject to equitable distribution. This means that the court would have liberty to divide up that $17 billion in a way they deem to be equitable or fair. The factors determining what is equitable are many, but include things like the length of the marriage and the earning potential of each party.
That so much money is on the line in this divorce is a reminder of the importance of taking precautions to protect one’s wealth from potential divorce. While nobody likes to think about that possibility at the beginning of a marriage, it can certainly be an important protection in the undesired event of divorce. The key, as we’ve mentioned before on this blog, is to make sure you work with an attorney who can protect your interests and who knows how to establish a valid and effective agreement.
Source: NBC News, “Priciest Divorce Ever? How Oilman Harold Hamm Could Lose $17 Billion,” Tony Dokoupil, August 24, 2014.