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Could this become the largest divorce settlement in U.S. history?

Posted by Thomas Pettinicchi of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Mar 21, 2013 in Property Division

People in Connecticut generally do not have billions of dollars, sophisticated estates and multiple properties at their disposal. However, this is not to say that more modest assets are any less significant. This can be especially true when a couple decides to get divorced. Whether a couple shares moderate levels of property and assets or more substantial amounts, it can be crucial to any person that these assets be divided fairly.

In Connecticut, the law requires that any property acquired during a marriage be divided equitably between spouses in the event of a divorce. This can turn into a contentious debate, especially as the stakes and amounts to be split get higher. Take, for example, the potential divorce of a billionaire oil executive and his wife of about 15 years. It is reported that if the couple splits up, it could go down as one of the largest divorce settlements in U.S. history.

According to sources, Harold Hamm is worth about $11.3 billion, thanks to his control over an oil company. He is one of the 50 wealthiest people in the country but that could change if the pending split with his wife goes through. If the couple divorces and there is no prenuptial agreement that dictates otherwise, Hamm's estranged wife could collect more than $1.7 billion in a settlement, making it the highest ever.

However, there are a number of factors that could affect what and how much will be split between Hamm and his wife. The couple has had a strained relationship since as far back as 1998 when Hamm first filed for a divorce from his wife. The petition was eventually withdrawn, only to be filed by a second petition for divorce in 2005, this time by Hamm's wife. However, that too was eventually dropped.

Hamm claims that the couple has been living separate lives since 2005 which could dramatically affect the amount of money that may end up being divided. There is evidence to suggest, however, that the couple had been living, working and appearing in public together until as recently as last May.

The timing of the split and whether the couple has a prenuptial agreement or not could likely have a dramatic impact on the assets that are to be considered marital property.

Source: Reuters, "Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten U.S. oil baron's empire," Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer, March 21, 2013

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