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Trial decision on property settlement in oil baron's divorce

Harold Hamm has been listed as the 28th richest man in the U.S. His mega-wealth will be diminished somewhat as the result of a divorce-related property settlement, recently decided in a 10-day trial. Hamm's wife of 26 years will receive $972 million dollars, a fraction of a fortune estimated to be more than $16 billion.

A court decided Harold Hamm did not have to sell off his majority 68 percent stake in Continental Resources, with oil operations reaching into Louisiana. While anything close to $1 billion dollars seems like an enormous settlement, the ex-wife actually received far less of the couple's marital assets than some observers expected. An appeal is under consideration.

In a community property states like Louisiana, marital property is divided equally. Spouses may decide independently to make other arrangements contrary to the law. However, when marital property is in dispute, the 50-50 rule applies.

The Hamm divorce papers were filed by the wife in 2012. The trial dealt only with the unresolved financial matters. The ex-wife will receive $323 million before the end of 2014 and $7 million-per-month payments until the full marital debt is satisfied.

Reports noted Harold Hamm established Continental Resources before he married. Property acquired before marriage is generally considered separate property. However, commingling separate and marital assets can affect the property's status and the court's perception of how it should be divided.

The Hamm ruling also divvied up real estate and other property. Hamm's former wife was awarded two homes valued at nearly $20 million. Harold Hamm retained a $750,000 home, a jet worth $10 million and almost $2 billion more in marital assets than his ex.

In Louisiana, half is fair during divorce. Other states divide property according to equitable distribution rules, which do not require spouses to receive equal property portions. A divorce attorney can assist with divorce settlements and customized property agreements.

Source: Bloomberg News, "Divorce Award Nears $1 Billion; Shale Pioneer Asks for Family Photos, Shotguns" Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Joe Carroll and Zain Shauk, Nov. 11, 2014

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