In equitable property division states, hindsight may be 50/50 p3

After 26 years of marriage, divorce can be a complicated matter. Add in billions of dollars and 125 million shares of stock in a company at the center of an oil boom and you have a very complicated matter. Harold Hamm and his wife Sue Ann may have had other issues to hammer out, but the property division problem alone could easily be the reason the divorce has dragged on for two years. (They are set for trial in July.)

Hamm is the majority stockholder in the highly successful oil and gas company Continental Resources. Thanks to the Bakken Shale, his investment has increased in value exponentially over the past few years. The company went public in 2007 with shares selling at $15. In mid-March, the price was more than $120 per share. That growth has added about $13 billion to Hamm’s net worth.

We have been talking about how the court will divide the value of the shares. The Hamms live in an equitable property state. Most states, Missouri included, are equitable division states. Only three states are equal division, or community property, states. The difference, of course, is that marital property in community property states is split 50/50. Here and for the Hamms, it is divided fairly, with the court’s decision based, for the most part, on each spouse’s contribution to the marital estate.

Missouri, in fact, requires courts to consider five factors (at least) when determining what is fair. One is the economic circumstances of each spouse when the divorce is final. In a one-income household, for example, the court will work to avoid impoverishing the stay-at-home spouse. The court would consider the monetary and nonmonetary contributions of each spouse, including the contributions of a homemaker.

The court must also take into account the value of non-marital property. If one spouse had a safe deposit box full of diamonds for years before the wedding, for example, or if one spouse comes into the marriage with a high-value real estate portfolio, that, too, would be included in the calculation.

Now, if the Hamms were in Missouri, they would be focusing on one particular property division statute. We’ll talk about that in our next post.


Tulsa World, “Divorce could affect Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm’s controlling stake in oil company,” Bloomberg News, March 20, 2014

Vernon’s Annotated Missouri Statutes, Chapter 452: Dissolution of Marriage, Divorce, Alimony and Separate Maintenance, § 330 Disposition of property, factors to be considered, current with emergency legislation approved through Feb. 19, 2014, via Westlaw

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