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Important lessons on property division in Harold Hamm case

Unfortunately, divorce is on the rise in the United States, including California. Many marriage break-ups are long-drawn out battles with couples fighting over many issues, such as child custody, spousal support and even property division. In celebrity break-ups, where with assets in question running up to several million dollars, the bitterness can be extreme. One such celebrity divorce that has been in the spotlight for various issues including property division, is that of oil tycoon, Harold Hamm and his ex-spouse.

Although this multi-billion divorce case has earned a lot of negative publicity, divorcing women can learn a few things from this case. Hamm is the founder of Continental Resources and his divorce case with reportedly $17 billion assets at stake is turning out to be the largest divorce settlement in recent times. In many states courts ask for an equitable division of property and the courts decide what makes for equitable property division.

In some states, spouses are regarded as equal property owners. There, a 50-50 property division is the rule, and these states are regarded as community property states. In this particular Hamm divorce case, two important things must be considered -- passive property appreciation versus active property appreciation and the second is the separation date.

Active appreciation is the increase in property value or assets as a result of the spouses' efforts. Passive appreciation happens when property values sees a rise due to market forces. In this particular divorce case, Hamm's wife has contended that property appreciation happened after their marriage in 1988 and as a result of her efforts. Hence, she believes she is entitled to a larger portion of the assets. It is important that a spouse document the reasons behind the change in property value.

Also of importance is the separation date. Many states have different opinions about this. From Harold Hamm's perspective, it means that the longer time he can prove that he has split from his wife, the fewer the assets he must split.

Source: Forbes, "A Multi-Billion Dollar Divorce: What All Divorcing Women Can Learn From Sue Ann Hamm," Sept. 22, 2014

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