‘Most expensive divorce in history’ about to wrap up

NBC News Reports that the divorce between oil tycoon Harold Hamm and his wife, Sue Ann, is about to be finalized, with the judge overseeing the case expected to file a conclusion in late October. The case has made headlines in recent months, as many experts predict that it will be the most expensive divorce settlement in history. Attorneys for both sides completed their arguments earlier in the month and are now awaiting a decision.

Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, is well known in the energy industry for his innovations related to hydraulic fracturing (also known as "fracking"), and the company has experienced significant growth in past few years alone. He and his wife were married for nearly 26 years.

Active versus passive growth

This case has been particularly notable for the strategy Mr. Hamm's divorce attorneys used to help reduce the assets he would potentially need to give to his former spouse through the division of marital property. They claimed that Continental Resources' success was largely the result of dumb luck and that their client did not play an active role in the company's recent growth. It is now worth nearly five times what it was just four years ago, and Mr. Hamm's net worth is estimated at almost $20 billion.

According to a CNBC report, the legal argument is based on whether there was active or passive appreciation of shared assets in the marriage. If the court finds that the company's growth was due in large part to Mr. Hamm's talent and hard work, he will likely lose more money in the divorce. However, if his lawyers are successful at arguing that Continental Resources grew without much input from Mr. Hamm, they may be able to reduce the amount of money that would go to his former wife.

For the child of poor sharecroppers who rose up the ranks in the business world to become one of the world's richest individuals, it's a somewhat bizarre position for Mr. Hamm. For years, he has touted his work ethic as the reason why he has been so successful, but recently has had to reverse course and claim that he was simply lucky. Many energy experts believe Hamm owns more oil in the ground than any other person on earth, so it will be interesting to see if the judge accepts his attorneys' arguments.

In addition, the Gainesville Journal-Constitution reports that Mr. Hamm's control over the company could be in jeopardy, as he might have to sell a large portion of his 68 percent share of Continental Resources to pay for the settlement.

The judge in the case agreed that no reporters or outside parties would be allowed in the courtroom during the proceedings and kept most of the records sealed. He agreed with Mr. Hamm's argument that the disclosure of some information could harm his company, impacting people who have no connection to the case.

Divorce proceedings are often complex when there are large amounts of assets at stake. And although no divorces to date have involved the amount of money as the Hamms', high-wealth individuals stand to lose substantial portions of their assets when they go through the dissolution of a marriage. For the representation and guidance you need, regardless of the issues involved in your case, consult a knowledgeable Gainesville divorce attorney.