Oklahoma oil magnate Harold Hamm, the billionaire CEO of Continental Resources, has recently appealed the ruling in his divorce case, which he claims is inequitable and erroneous. His ex-wife was awarded $1 billion in the ruling. However, Hamm’s multi-billion dollar fortune has been halved due to recent oil prices. He contends that that award, along with 26 other assets that were split up as marital property, was improper.
His ex-wife has also appeared the ruling, claiming it allows Hamm to retain over 90 percent of the financial estate that he and she worked together to build during their marriage of 26 years. However, Hamm claims that his stake in Continental, amounting to 68 percent of the company, was property that he owned prior to the marriage and that it only increased in value passively due to market forces. The distinction between passive and active appreciation is important in Oklahoma, since the law states that only wealth based on the active skills or efforts of the husband or wife should be divisible during a divorce.
As this shows, it is important to understand what is marital property and what is separate property in Oklahoma. In general, marital property is that which the couple obtains while married, while separate property is that which one spouse or the other owns prior to the marriage. However, sometimes what was once separate property is commingled in a way that makes it marital. As in the Hamm case, sometimes it can be argued that separate property gained value during the course of the marriage due to the efforts of both spouses. In situations like these, the court may, in some cases, consider the value gained as marital property and divide it accordingly.
Understanding the difference between marital and separate property is crucial when it comes to divorce. Those with questions about the differences may choose to seek legal help, in order to ensure their interests are protected.