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Judge rules most of billionaire's stock is non-marital property

The idea of property division in a Missouri divorce can take on several different avenues of inquiry. Last week we discussed concepts that may arise when a family business is involved in a divorce proceeding. Determining the accurate values of assets is often an important process in a high-asset divorce.

A recent ruling in a high-profile family law case in another state may help to illuminate that valuation issues may not be the only analysis in dividing property. Notably, the family court ruling does not apply Missouri family law, but the story does tend to underscore how property division issues can be complex.

Last month the judge presiding over the divorce between billionaire Harold Hamm and his estranged wife ruled that roughly 122 million shares of stock that the oilman owns in Continental Resources is non-marital property. The ruling means that Hamm will maintain his control in the company. The court order does not seem to address roughly 4 million additional shares of stock, according to Forbes Magazine.

The court reserved deciding a valuation issue related to the billionaire’s overall stock ownership under the laws in the state where the divorce is being litigated. The court declined to rule on how the appreciation in the value of the stock during the marriage will be divided—that ruling remains reserved, according to News OK.

The divorce case continues to proceed toward a trial, which is expected in July. Few details have been revealed about the divorce as many of the issues have remained under seal.

Division of property in a high-asset divorce has several areas that can come under dispute. Determining whether assets are non-marital can be complex, and generally requires the spouse seeking to have the property deemed non-marital, or separate property, to prove the issue.

Source: Forbes, “Judge: Billionaire Hamm To Retain Control Of Continental Resources In Divorce Settlement,” Christopher Helman, Mar. 4, 2014; News OK, “Harold Hamm to keep Continental Resources stock," Adam Wilmoth, Mar. 5, 2014

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