SAYING NO TO A 1 BILLION DOLLAR DIVORCE AWARD
At the beginning of 2015, the media reported that Sue Arnall, the ex-wife of oil magnate Harold Hamm, rejected the decree, which would end their contentious divorce, for the sum of approximately $975 million. You read correctly, Ms. Arnall declined nearly $1 billion.
While for most, her actions seem shocking, to say the least, those familiar with family law and the Hamm’s estate understand why Ms. Arnall may have been holding out for what she deemed to be a more equitable share of the assets. It is reported that Mr. Hamm has a net worth of nearly $18 billion. This net worth is said, by Ms. Arnall and her attorneys, to have been amassed during the marriage, and as such should be considered a marital asset subject to the laws of equitable distribution. After all, there is no pre-nuptial agreement acting as a ceiling to the sum Ms. Arnall can receive in the divorce settlement. Furthermore, having been married for 25 years and playing a significant role in Continental Resources, Ms. Arnall believed that she played a substantial role in helping her ex-husband, the Chief Executive Officer, amass his fortune. In fact, prior to marrying Mr. Hamm, Ms. Arnall was an attorney for Continental.
In Oklahoma, assets acquired by the active efforts of either husband or wife are split in divorce. In November 2014, Ms. Arnall was awarded close to $1 billion, in addition to property, including a California ranch worth $15 million, and several million dollars of other assets, by an Oklahoma District Court judge. An award she later appealed. On January 5th, 2015, Mr. Hamm hand wrote a check, payable to his ex-wife, in the amount of $974,790,317.77. A check which she initially refused to deposit or cash.
However, earlier this week, several news outlets reported that Ms. Arnall had endorsed and deposited the settlement check. By cashing the check, Ms. Arnall has relinquished her rights to appeal the judge’s November award.
While many speculate on why Ms. Arnall has changed her initial decision to not accept the settlement offer, it is likely due to the possibility of a diminishing valuation in Mr. Hamm’s assets; his assets are said to be tied to the price of oil which has been on a steady decline since the initial divorce judgment award. In fact, Mr. Hamm has also appealed the November divorce decree, which he was once quoted as being fair, pointing to diminishing assets as a cause for a lesser award; Continental’s stock prices have declined by 34 percent.
Whatever her reasoning, Ms. Arnall has ended her appeal and any further need for settlement negotiations by depositing the check. Under the law, by depositing the check Ms. Arnall has accepted the benefits of the initial award and no longer has grounds for appeal. If she does not withdraw her appeal, Mr. Hamm and his legal team can file a motion for dismissal citing her check as her acceptance of the settlement. Mr. Hamm may decide to dismiss his appeal as well and put an end to this contentious litigation once and for all.
Written for Legal Blog Writers, LLC by Dena Reid, Esq., Founder of Code Red Flag.
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