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Judge finds majority of Harold Hamm's oil stock is pre-marital

Determining the value of a business interest can be an important process for some people in California who are seeking a divorce. A privately-held business may have many aspects that can affect the overall value. Generally, a publicly-held business is valued in a different way—with the price of stock relatively available. But, dividing assets in a divorce may often involve disputes in areas other than determining an actual fair value.

A judge in a West South Central state recently issued an order that may help to illuminate disputes in a high-asset divorce can be complex. It is important to note that California is a community property state, but what may be deemed community property may be an issue in some divorces.

A man who owns more than 100 million shares of a publicly traded company argued that most of his stock ownership should not be included as marital property in his divorce. The judge presiding over the litigation issued a ruling last month that the majority of the stock that the man owns is pre-marital property and should not be included in the property division—at least as far as the stock ownership is concerned. The judge reserved ruling on how the appreciation of the stock that has occurred during the marriage may be divided.

Forbes reports that 122 million shares of the oil billionaire’s roughly 126 million overall shares are pre-marital property for the purposes of his divorce proceeding. Harold Hamm, the founder of Continental Resources is in the midst of a divorce from his estranged wife. A trial is expected to occur in July, if a settlement of the issues is not reached prior to that time. Many of the records in the divorce remain under seal.

In California, assets may be found to be separate property in some circumstances, but the analysis can be complex. A family law attorney may assist in working through the financial and legal issues associated with a high-asset divorce.

Source: Forbes, “Judge: Billionaire Hamm To Retain Control Of Continental Resources In Divorce Settlement,” Christopher Helman, Mar. 4, 2014; News OK, “Harold Hamm to keep Continental Resources stock," Adam Wilmoth, Mar. 5, 2014

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