Wealthy individuals in Washington who are going through a divorce may be interested to hear about a recent outcome in the divorce case of Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder of Continental Resources, Inc. Hamm's wife had been vying for his controlling stake in the company as part of their divorce settlement. In Feb. 2014, a judge ruled that more than 122 million shares of Continental that Hamm had owned before getting married would be considered his separate property, not assets of the marriage.
Hamm owns 70 percent equity stake in Continental. Shareholders of the company had expressed some concern that if these shares were considered marital property, which would give half of the shares to Hamm's ex-wife, then the management of the company would shift drastically. Hamm was not too concerned about whether the court would grant partial summary judgment on the issue of the 122 million shares, since the shares were clearly pre-marital property. Hamm says that the strong management team of his company has risen above the distractions of the divorce proceedings, and last year Continental Resources increased its oil production 39 percent.
Hamm and his wife still need to reach a divorce settlement, but the judge's order takes the 122 million shares out of the picture. The parties are expected to go to trial in July 2014. Although the 122 million shares in question were clearly his pre-marital property, the status of an additional 4 million shares has not been made clear.
In many high asset divorces, an asset that was acquired before marriage may have increased in value during the marriage, and there may be questions as to whether the other spouse's efforts contributed to its appreciation. Those with concerns about how their property will be classified in a divorce may wish to consult a family law attorney for guidance.
Source: Forbes, "Judge: Billionaire Hamm To Retain Control Of Continental Resources In Divorce Settlement", Christopher Helman, March 04, 2014