Property Division in Oilman's Divorce Could Be Most Costly Ever

The distribution of assets and property can be a contentious aspect of divorce proceedings as it has a direct impact on the financial well-being of each party. When making a property division determination, courts must decide what property is subject to distribution, as well as what is reasonable based on circumstances of the marriage.

A pending divorce between an oilman and his wife may end up being regarded as the most expensive ever. The man is reported to have assets in excess of $11 billion, and may be forced to relinquish half of them in the divorce. His wife, in addition to being his partner in their marriage, also held high-level positions within his company. So, while she gets credit for helping to build their marriage, she also helped build her husband's business. Joint business ventures between married couples are a factor in distributing their finances in the event of a divorce. The extensive growth of the husband's company since their marriage may be seen as a shared growth due to her contributions to the business.

Georgia applies equitable property distribution, which means property is distributed based on what is fair and reasonable, rather than equal. The property in question may be either community property or separate property. Separate property is anything brought into the marriage by one of the parties, and is not subject to distribution in a divorce. Community property involves any property acquired during the marriage and may be distributed amongst the parties according to a court's discretion.

One of the more difficult assets to assess as community or separate property is a business started by one of the parties before the marriage, but aided by the marriage. The business may be considered separate property since one of the parties brought it into the marriage, but it may eventually be classified as community property if it is continued and enhanced during the marriage. In the case above, this is especially true since the wife held upper-level positions within the business and helped its growth. Her involvement in the company and the company's extensive growth during the marriage may classify it as community property and make it subject to distribution in the divorce.

Both parties to a divorce should be aware of the classification of property and the rules governing the distribution of various assets.

Source: Business Insider, "What Every Couple Should Learn From Oil Baron Harold Hamm's Record-Breaking Divorce," Megan Durisin, Apr. 3, 2013

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