Oil industry billionaire Harold Hamm and his recent divorce (along with its billion dollar award) have been closely followed by the international media. According to a recent news article fromNBC News, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has dismissed Hamm's ex-wife's appeal of the trial court's order awarding her nearly $1 billion.
In case you haven't been following this highly-publicized divorce case from the beginning, following a trial, a judge order Hamm to pay his now ex-wife $974.8 million as part of her property division and spousal support award. Following entry of this order, both parties appealed. Hamm argued this award was far too much, and his ex-wife appealed, arguing it was far too low in light of Hamm's total worth.
According to Hamm's ex-wife, she should have been awarded just under $18 billion as part of her original divorce proceeding. This figure was based on the vast amount of real and personal assets the couple had amassed from an oil conglomerate Hamm founded during his marriage of over 20 years.
During this latest appeal, the state supreme court issued a 7-2 decision dismissing her appeal. Appellate court's reason was since she decided to cash her check for $974.8 million last January following trial court's ruling, she had forfeited her right to appeal. Two of the seven state supreme court judges voted to grant her appeal. Their reason for dissenting from the majority was because they felt barring an appeal because she already cashed her check was a rule based on old-fashioned law no longer having a place in our modern day legal system. As of this time, the court has not dismissed Hamm's appeal the verdict was too high.
As the author of the NBC news article stated, Hamm can now celebrate his legal victory assuming he can call having to pay one of the largest divorce settlement awards in history, some kind of victory.
As our Birmingham divorce attorneys can explain, one of the biggest factors in any property division or spousal support award is the length of the marriage. If this had been a relatively short marriage, like a year or two, for example, it might be hard to justify such a large award to one spouse. However, for a couple who has been married to two decades without a prenuptial agreement, who had amassed billions of dollars in assets during the marriage, it is not hard to imagine how a court would award a significant amount of money to one spouse as part of a divorce proceeding.
It should be noted, there is some property that is generally not subject to distribution during a divorce. Regardless of the duration of a marriage, gifts to one spouse or an inheritance distributed to one spouse will normally be outside of the marital estate and thus not subject to distribution. However, one way in which property outside of the marital state can be subject to a property distribution deals with what is known as commingling of assets. Courts tend to look at how parties treated their property during marriage. If money owned by one spouse is used to purchase a joint assets or stored in a mutual account with marital funds, it can be determined these assets have become significantly commingled to lose their independent asset status.
Court Dismisses Appeal by Harold Hamm's Ex-Wife in $1B Divorce, April 29, 2015, NBC News