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What the Hamm divorce can teach us about high asset divorce (1 of 2)

The divorce case of oil magnate Harold Hamm and his wife of more than 25 years, Sue Ann Arnall, could go down in history as one of the most expensive divorces of all time.

To get you up to speed, Hamm founded the wildly successful oil company Continental Resources prior to the couple’s marriage. Currently, Hamm is worth around $10 billion but in August during the divorce trial it was more like $19 billion, the Washington Post reported.

Sue Ann Arnall, who was previously known as Sue Ann Hamm, is a lawyer and a former executive for Continental. Hamm and Arnall did not sign a prenuptial agreement prior to tying the knot, so when they legally separated in 2013 there was a lot of money at stake.

Because Hamm founded Continental before the marriage, many people assumed that the oil company’s value would be considered separate property and not up for division in the divorce. However, state law where the couple divorced (Oklahoma) states that the amount separate property appreciates during a marriage can be considered marital if the appreciation was active instead of passive.

Ultimately, the judge presiding over the case ruled that Arnall was entitled to $995.5 million of Hamm’s fortune in addition to several pieces of property and assets. Arnall was outraged, believing she was entitled to a larger share under the law. She subsequently appealed the judge’s decision.

But the drama didn’t end there. Please check back next week for the most recent update in the case that has made national headlines, as well as what we can all learn about high asset divorce from this case.

Source: The Washington Post, “A guide to the billion-dollar divorce appeal that’s headed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” Abby Ohlheiser, Jan. 3, 2014

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