The biggest celebrity divorce story of the week was reported here by the Daily Mail Online and here by Forbes. Few financial losses can rival the potential blow to Harold Hamm’s fortune as a result of his divorce from wife Sue Ann Hamm. Mr. and Mrs. Hamm have already entered into a confidentiality agreement, so the media can only speculate about whether the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before they were married.
Harold Hamm is a self-made oil tycoon, reportedly worth $11.3 billion. Mr. Hamm is one of the wealthiestmen in America and has been named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine. If he and his wife did not sign a prenuptial agreement, Mr. Hamm could be ordered to pay as much as $5 billion to resolve his divorce.
Pursuant to Oklahoma divorce law, marital property is equitably distributed between the parties to a divorce action. Equitable division requires that all property and financial assets accrued during the marriage be divided in a fair and just manner. While equitable distribution does not necessarily require equal division, Mrs. Hamm will likely receive a very sizable payout.
Mrs. Hamm is an economist and lawyer. However, she gave up other employment opportunities to work as an executive for her husband”s companies. Mrs. Hamm worked for her husband at a time when the value of the Hamm oil companies increased significantly. Five of the companies have been subpoenaed to provide financial records and information in the divorce case. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement could have protected Mr. Hamm’s companies from being divided or sold in the event of divorce.
Prenuptial agreements can also be drafted to take into account potential changes in circumstance. When drafting a prenuptial agreement, your attorney should consider penalties for adultery or abandonment and incentives for supporting family businesses or caring for children. Mrs. Hamm has alleged that her husband committed adultery, and her allegations may result in a larger payout. Adultery is relevant to the issue of equitable property distribution. If Mr. Hamm diverted resources away from the marital estate to visit or buy gifts for girlfriends, Mrs. Hamm may receive a larger portion of the remaining estate. Mrs. Hamm’s pain and suffering may also be taken into account.
Discussing and negotiating a prenuptial agreement is smart financial planning for any couple planning to enter into a marriage relationship. Broaching the subject to your future spouse is not easy or romantic. However, negotiating a prenuptial agreement is similar to purchasing a life insurance policy. Just as you do not wish for your spouse’s demise, you do not wish for your marriage to end. It is impossible to know what the future may hold, and it is smart to plan for unforeseeable events. It is always easier to discuss a fair and reasonable dissolution while you and your spouse still like each other.
Family law attorney Hailey Black is experienced in drafting thorough, equitable and clear agreements. If you would like to negotiate a prenuptial agreement before taking the next step in your relationship, Hailey is available to consult with you about the requirements and to assist you in drafting an enforceable legal contract.