On behalf of The Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, PC posted in Prenuptial Agreements on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.

Divorce proceedings have recently begun in a case that is poised to produce one of the largest settlements in history. Rarely are such marriages and separations seen today where the couple does not have a prenuptial agreement in place, and Dallas residents may understand why after reading more about this scenario.

The case involves oil tycoon Harold Hamm, who founded the oil company Continental Resources almost 50 years ago. He would eventually marry a woman, Sue Ann, who also worked at the company as an attorney in 1988. His net worth at that time was estimated to be roughly $16 million. In the years since that marriage, in part due to rising oil prices, the company has virtually exploded. With his majority ownership in the stock, Hamm’s personal fortune today approaches $20 billion.
A judge in the divorce proceedings has ruled that the stock Hamm owned before the marriage is his own property, but the issue now is whether the difference in value they acquired during the marriage should be treated as marital property. Was the spike in value a result of economic factors beyond anyone’s control? Or was it Hamm’s personal leadership and hard work that drove the company’s success? Billions of dollars hang upon a judge’s answer to that question.

Many Dallas couples would consider a personal fortune of even a few million dollars sufficient motivation to broach the admittedly often uncomfortable subject of a prenuptial agreement when entering a marriage. But the case demonstrates that over the course of a marriage, couples’ finances may change dramatically. A couple getting married right out of college with nothing but a few hundred dollars in savings might consider a prenuptial agreement the least of their worries. But after a few years or a few decades of marriage, they may find a very different set of financial circumstances to sort through.

Without a prenuptial agreement to govern the division of this sum, the Hamm divorce proceedings have been unlike virtually any other case in this country. But any couple considering marriage can avoid the risk of painful and heated disputes over property division with a prenuptial agreement.

Source: Reuters, “Billion-dollar debate in Oklahoma divorce: Was oilman just lucky?” Joshua Schneyer, Aug. 3, 2014