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Ex-wife of oil tycoon appealing $1 billion divorce settlement

Texans may be interested in the outcome of a divorce case between a man who made his fortune in the oil industry and his wife of 26 years. The wife, who filed for divorce in 2012, is appealing a court's judgment awarding her nearly $1 billion in the divorce settlement of her case.

The husband's estimated worth is $20 billion. He will pay her the one-third of the settlement amount by the end of the year, with the remainder payable in monthly installments of $7 million. The couple, who had two children, did not have a prenuptial agreement.

The wife worked as an attorney and economist in an executive role at her husband's company. She contended she helped him build the company into what it is today. The man made his fortune by pioneering fracking in North Dakota's oil shale. His attorneys contend that the husband's ownership of the company predated his marriage by 20 years, and so he feels she should not be entitled to a greater amount in the property division. The couple's divorce proceeding occurred in Oklahoma.

This case is demonstrative of several things. First, how property is divided depends on the judge's determination of what portion is marital property and what part is separate property. Texas, unlike Oklahoma, is a community property state, meaning that all assets deemed to be marital property are equally divided. In a high-asset divorce case, however, determining what portion is marital property and what portion is separate property can be complicated and difficult. When a person owns assets prior to a marriage, those are generally considered to be separate property. However, when the spouse contributes efforts, work and income to helping increase the value of that property while married, the assets become comingled, making it difficult to allocate between spouses in the division.

Source: CNN, "$1 billion divorce settlement 'disappointing'", Steve Hargreaves, November 14, 2014

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