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Property division in Hamm divorce continues to spark debate

Few divorces anywhere, including in California, are easy. When they involve complicated matters such as child support, spousal support and property division, they can be almost impossible to resolve amicably. This is especially true for high asset divorces such as that seen with oil billionaire Harold Hamm and ex-wife Sue Ann Arnall. Currently, theirs is the largest divorce settlement in U.S. history, but the story is not over and could drag on for months, if not years, with the final settlement amount likely to either increase or decrease.

Following 24 years of marriage, Arnall initiated divorce proceedings in 2012. In November 2014, an Oklahoma court ordered Hamm to pay nearly $1 billion to Arnall, even though Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state and Hamm's assets were then estimated at $18 billion. Hamm wrote out a check for almost $975 million even while appealing the court's decision.

For her part, Arnall finally cashed the check while also appealing the court ruling. In essence, Hamm says he has paid too much, and Arnall contends he has not paid enough given her contributions as executive and attorney with his corporation, Continental Resources.

Arnall's stance is straightforward. The court's division of the marital property should have included assets from Continental Resources because the equitable distribution mandates fairness and her contributions to Continental made it more valuable. She also contends that the basis of the decision was not fair and that the amount already awarded is irrelevant.

Hamm is fighting for a lesser settlement out of principle and out of concern that his fortune has been cut significantly to around $11 billion because of dips in world oil prices. He also argues that the tremendous growth in Continental Resources was because of market forces and his good luck rather than anything Arnall contributed to the company.

Source: Forbes, "Active And Passive Appreciation In The Continuing Story Of Hamm v. Hamm," Jeff Landers, Jan. 22, 2015

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