Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Largest divorce in U.S. history hinges on theory applied to all

While every divorce affects those involved and the people around them, there are some divorces which can have far-reaching effects. Some people may fall into a depression at the news that their favorite celebrity couple is parting ways. These are the stories that the media thrives on and spoon-feeds the public on a daily basis. However, there is another set of divorces that carry with them more profound implications legally and otherwise. The outcome of these divorces may result in a new interpretation or application of law or affect such a large number of people that they demand attention.

Billionaire Harold Hamm, whose net worth is around $17 billion, is divorcing his wife of 25 years. Not only may this be the most expensive divorce in U.S. history, it can have long term effects on the very company that helped build Hamm's vast fortune. Hamm started his company nearly two decades before meeting his wife. During the time of their marriage, the couple had three children together and watched Harold's company grow into the mega company it is today. Because Harold owns a majority of the company's stock, the divorce will have an effect on the company if his wife is given a large number of shares as part of the property division. Selling the stock on the open market will likely do more damage to the stock's value than the 3 percent drop that occurred the same day the divorce was announced.

At play in the divorce is the equitable distribution of assets theory that is used in Utah. Property that is considered separate from the marital estate can still become part of the estate if the property appreciated during the course of the marriage. The value of the appreciation can be added to the estate if a court determines that it was due to active and not passive contributions of the parties involved in the divorce. Many courts rely on a three-part test when making the determination.

Some divorces have more implications for those on the sidelines than the two people seeking to separate their lives. Regardless of the money or fame the parties possess, every divorce is important, especially to those involved in the process.

Source: NBC, Priciest Divorce Ever? How Oilman Harold Hamm Could Lose $17 Billion, Tony Dokoupil, Aug. 24, 2014

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