During any divorce, the property settlement is likely to be a significant element of the proceeding. The older the couple, the longer the marriage and the more substantial the assets, the more likely there are to be disagreements over what is a fair division of the marital property.
But few divorces are likely to have a property division of the size of the divorce involving Harold Hamm and his wife. He is the owner and creator of Continental Oil, an oil drilling company that has grown dramatically as the fracking oil boom of the Bakken oil fields has expanded.
The oil business, however, is known for its boom-and-bust cycles, and the value of Mr. Hamm’s fortune is perhaps moving from the boom part of the cycle, potentially towards the bust.
Since August of 2014, some reports indicate he may have lost half of his wealth. Given that his holdings were valued at $19 billion, he is unlikely to be heading toward the poor house any day. But he and his wife are disputing the almost $1 billion property settlement the court awarded last year.
He claimed it was too large and she that it was too small. With assets of this magnitude, any calculation is a challenge, but it underscores that divorce determinations are often based on a snapshot of time.
It is important to understand the basis of your assets during a complex property division. The stock market can fluctuate and the collapse in real estate last decade showed that even something as seemingly rock-solid as a suburban American home can decline in value.
It also serves to remind that items funded by income streams, like medical care for a spouse or children should be backed by insurance, in the event the responsible party dies unexpectedly, resulting in loss of that benefit.
This week it appears that she accepted a lump sum payment of $974.8 million, as his attorney was advised by Morgan Stanly that she had deposited the check. Perhaps she decided not to gamble on further potential declines in his oil company’s stock value, and to end what could have been additional years of litigation.
The Washington Post, “A guide to the billion-dollar divorce appeal that’s headed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” Abby Ohlheiser, January 3, 2015