Divorce, as readers are aware, can be an expensive affair, particularly for couples who have a lot of money to their name and who are determined to battle it out for what is rightfully theirs. What is costly for one couple, though, may be pennies to another couple. The amount of money at stake in the divorce of oil magnate Harold Hamm and his wife--$17 billion—certainly qualifies as a lot.
One of the big issues in the case is exactly how much of that $17 billion is going to go on the chopping block. Under Oklahoma law any effort Hamm put into growing that wealth during the marriage is counted as marital property and is to be split according to the principles of equitable distribution, which is the approach to property division used in Oklahoma. To the extent that the wealth grew of its own accord, it will be considered separate property.
In divorce, determining what is marital and separate property is an important issue, since it essentially determines what is going to be split up. For those with considerable wealth going into a marriage, it is a good idea to look into hammering out a prenuptial agreement to protect oneself from the unfortunate event of divorce. A good prenuptial agreement effectively trumps state property division laws.
The key with prenuptial agreements is to make sure you work with an experienced attorney in negotiating and drafting the terms. Such agreements are only good if both parties are fully informed about the financial situation and have their interests represented. A poor prenuptial agreement can simply be another legal issue to work through, so make sure you do it right.
Source: Nbcnews.com, “Priciest Divorce Ever? How Oilman Harold Hamm Could Lose $17 Billion,” August 24, 2014.