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McCurrie McCurrie
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Majority of oil magnate's shares in company not marital property

If you follow divorce-related stories in the news (as we do), then you may recall the ongoing divorce proceedings of oil magnate Harold Hamm. There was a question of whether his wife Sue Ann might be entitled to a significant amount of shares in her husband's oil company Continental Resources, in which he has a controlling interest.

Sue Ann's possibly taking those shares in the divorce had worried shareholders, who feared that management might be shaken up as a result. However, a judge recently ruled that Harold's 122 million shares in the company are categorized as separate or pre-marital property, thus the shares should not be divided in the divorce settlement.

In New Jersey, marital property in a divorce is supposed to be divided equitably. Equitable division does not guarantee a split down the middle, however, and many factors have to be considered when deciding what is fair and equitable.

For example, did one spouse play a significant role in the success of a company owned by the other spouse? Or did one spouse's abandonment of a career serve to benefit the other spouse's career? And, of course, did one spouse own certain assets prior to the marriage? In fact, the answers to these questions may not be as simple as you might expect if high assets are involved.

As for the Harold and Sue Ann Hamm divorce, the final settlement remains to be determined. Reportedly, 4 million of Harold's shares in Continental Resources were not separate property, and those shares may well be divided with Sue Ann. A trial has been scheduled for July.

Source: Forbes, "Judge: Billionaire Hamm To Retain Control Of Continental Resources In Divorce Settlement," Christopher Helman, March 4, 2014 

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