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Divorce appeal hinges on ex-wife's cashing of check

There is always some risk involved when a separating couple goes before a judge to resolve their disputes. It's possible that either or both partners may walk away unsatisfied with the result. Appealing a divorce decree is possible, but can be challenging and highly dependent upon a number of details.

Take, for example, the high-asset divorce between billionaire oil man Harold Hamm and his wife Sue Ann Arnall. We discussed back in November here on our Dallas family law blog the judge's award of $975 million to Arnall, a judgment which both parties indicated they did not accept and planned to appeal. For her part, Arnall claimed that the sum represented far less than her fair share of the $18 billion marital estate. Hamm countered that falling oil prices had caused the value of the company to plummet and that the award should be reduced.

Since that time, Hamm did take the surprising step of sending Arnall a personal check for the full amount of the judgment. After initially rejecting it, Arnall has recently cashed the check. She has, however, indicated she intends to continue her appeal, and that she has accepted the sum as just a portion of what she is ultimately entitled to. Hamm's legal team argues that she cannot both accept the benefits and appeal the judgment that awarded them at the same time; they are asking the court to dismiss Arnall's appeal.

What does it mean to cash a check? Does it represent final acceptance, or mere acceptance of the sum as a "down payment" on what's ultimately owed? The case illustrates that Dallas residents considering (or perhaps in the midst of) a divorce need to carefully weigh the implications of their actions. This is true not just of property division but in other aspects of a divorce, particularly child custody. A legal professional can help prevent potential missteps that may be interpreted negatively by the court.

Source: Reuters, "UPDATE 1-Oil tycoon's ex-wife cashes $975 mln check, wants more," Joshua Schneyer, Jan. 13, 2015

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