California residents may have seen reports of what is said to be the costliest divorce settlement of all time. Harold Hamm, CEO and founder of Continental Resources, is in the process of a divorce from his wife, Sue Ann.
Hamm is worth more than $11 billion and may be ordered to pay half of that to Sue Ann. Her claim to the fortune is based on not only the marriage, but also the positions she held at Continental. She had several high-ranking positions while the two were married, including starting the marketing groups for oil and gas. The years of their marriage saw major growth in the company. Because of her role in the company, Sue Ann may get half of Hamm's profits.
California is a community property state, meaning that all marital property is typically split evenly between divorcing spouses. Marital property is anything acquired by the couple during the course of the marriage. Personal property is not divided by the court and is kept by the owner spouse. Property owned by a spouse prior to the marriage or any gift, inheritance, or otherwise acquired by the spouse individually will be considered as personal property. If however, the personal property is shared or mixed with community property, it may be deemed by the court to have been converted into community property. Sue Ann's claim to a portion of the company's profit will likely be based on this theory.
Even when couples aren't dealing with a high asset divorce, understanding the way the court will divide assets can help the divorce settlement process.
Source: Business Insider, "What Every Couple Should Learn From Oil Baron Harold Hamm's Record-Breaking Divorce," Megan Durisin, April 3, 2013