The consequences of property and debt division during a divorce
As part of the divorce process, all married couples must divide their marital property and their marital debt. When it comes to divorce, asset division can be challenging for all couples. However, when one is a billionaire, much more can be at stake.
Billionaire divorce problems
Oil tycoon and CEO of Continental Resources, Harold Hamm, is seeking a divorce from his wife, Sue Ann Hamm, in Oklahoma. Harold Hamm is estimated to be worth more than $11 billion. That money comes from his 68 percent ownership in Continental Resources, which is an oil production company with success in the Midwest.
Sue Ann Hamm had an executive role in the company and, depending on whether the couple has a prenuptial agreement, that fact may give her a strong claim to part of Harold’s shares because she actively helped contribute to that wealth.
Oklahoma’s divorce law makes the state an equitable distribution state. This means that when it comes to asset division, Oklahoma courts will divide the property according to what is equitable and fair. However, equitable and fair does not always mean the assets and debts are split equally.
Wealth experts say that if the divorce settlement awards Sue Ann hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, Harold Hamm might be forced to sell some of his shares or give her some of his shares, which she could then turn around and sell. If Harold had to sell some of his shares or give away some of his shares, his ownership status with Continental Resources could be compromised.
Property division in Massachusetts
Like Oklahoma, Massachusetts is also an equitable distribution state regarding the division of marital property. Sometimes there is a question as to which property counts as marital property. Marital property is property that is acquired by the couple during the course of the marriage. However, in Massachusetts, a judge can lawfully divide all of the couple’s property, regardless of when it was acquired, as long as it seems fair. Often times the court will award the property to the original owner as long as it is fair.
Before a court divides a couple’s assets, monetary value must be assigned to each of the assets. Spouses can determine the monetary value of each asset, but if they do not appoint the monetary value of each asset the court will assign the value.
Property is divided by assigning specific items to each spouse or by selling the assets then dividing the proceeds between the spouses. Along with dividing assets, the court also divides debt between the spouses. The debt division includes debt accrued during the marriage such as car loans, credit card debt and mortgages. Debt spitting is also done equitably.
The division of property and debt can greatly affect each spouse’s post-marital well-being. Someone who is going through a divorce or who is thinking about a divorce would benefit from consulting with an experienced divorce attorney who can help ensure that the division of property and debt is indeed fair and equitable.