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Immense oil wealth fueling high-asset divorce battle

The sheer wealth of some people is, well, flatly staggering.

Harold Hamm is one of those people. That hardly seems surprising, given his inclusion on the obviously selective Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Hamm reportedly can get his hands on about $17.5 billion (give or take a few bucks), and his chosen field of business endeavor -- oil, specifically the shale oil boom that is revolutionizing the industry and altering global politics and economies -- seems aptly poised to just keep piling up his wealth to an astronomical degree.

There is just one caveat to that likelihood, that is, one challenge that Hamm is facing that could materially cut into his stash, and it comes in the form of a property division challenge from his wife, Sue Ann Hamm.

Quickly summarized, here's the Hamms' story. Harold Hamm bought a controlling share of Continental Resources Inc. before he married Sue Ann in 1988. The couple never executed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Following marriage, and especially since an initial public offering of the company in 2007, Hamm's shares skyrocketed.

Sue Ann Hamm now wants her fair share.

How much might that be?

The divorce case is being handled in Oklahoma, which, like Arkansas, is a so-called equitable distribution state. The judge handling the Hamms' divorce will use discretion and likely consider a number of factors to determine what constitutes an equitable -- that is, a fair -- case outcome.

What the court will focus on especially closely is reportedly the underlying cause of Hamm's surging wealth over the years. To the extent that has been caused by market forces not owing to Hamm's own business sense and ingenuity, he can keep his gains and shield them from Sue Ann Hamm. To the extent that his now many billions were created through his business savvy and purposeful conduct, Sue Ann will share in the gains.

As obviously complex -- and arguably instructive -- as property division is in the Hamms' case, it is also a matter of some complexity in most divorces involving division of assets.

In Arkansas, a Little Rock-based family law firm with a statewide nexus that has extensive experience handling property division matters can provide guidance and strong representation in any matter relating to asset division.

Source: Tulsa World, "Divorce could affect Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm's controlling stake in oil company," Bloomberg News, March 20, 2014

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