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High asset divorce, property appreciation and separation

Texas residents may know that Harold Hamm's divorce has yet to conclude. Married in 1988, the resolution of the divorce between the oil magnate and his estranged spouse may involve nearly $17 billion in assets, most of which is the interest in his company. As Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state, the court will decide property division on a variety of factors, two of which are the date of separation and property appreciation during the marriage.

The date of separation may be either the date the divorce is filed or the date a spouse leaves the marital residence. Since Hamm's oil business grew enormously during his marriage, the later the date of separation the more assets there are to divide. For individuals involved in a high asset divorce, establishing the date of separation is an important decision in terms of property division.

A company's growth may be due to market conditions without the effort of the owner or through the efforts of one or both parties. The greater the active appreciation, the larger the assets to be divided. Hamm's wife is claiming that the growth of his company and its worth is due largely to his work and her efforts while she worked there. In contrast, his position is that the increase in the value of the shares that he owned prior to their marriage is entirely due to outside market forces and conditions.

While many divorcing couples are able to amicably agree on all relevant issues, the Hamms were obviously unable to do so. Regardless of the resolution, it is expected that, unless their respective attorneys are able to negotiate a settlement, the resulting property award to be made by the court will be sizable.

Source: Forbes, "A Multi-Billion Dollar Divorce: What All Divorcing Women Can Learn From Sue Ann Hamm", Jeff Landers , September 22, 2014

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