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Billionaire couple's divorce may be the biggest ever

One of the nation's richest men and his wife headed to court in August to terminate their 26-year marriage. Legal analysts in Connecticut and throughout the nation are keeping a close watch on the high asset divorce, which could result in the biggest divorce settlement in history.

Although the judge hearing the case in Oklahoma has sealed most of the state court records, the basic facts are publicly known. The 68-year-old husband in this case is the founder and chairman of Continental Resources, a giant corporation that inaugurated the use of fracking in oil drilling. The man accumulated an estimated $20.2 billion fortune while married to his 58-year-old wife, who now stands to acquire a large portion of it. Even if the wife wins only a quarter of this net worth, it would break the record for the most expensive divorce of all time.

The trial is scheduled to last for eight weeks, during which two issues will decide the exact split of the couple's assets. First, the judge will have to determine the date that should govern the division of Continental stock that the husband acquired before his marriage. Second, the judge must decide how much the wife contributed to her husband's success as his spouse and as a former Continental executive. Experts say the absence of a prenuptial agreement may favor the wife in the complex asset division in Oklahoma divorce court.

This high-asset divorce is unique because of the extraordinary value of the marital property at stake. It is rather typical, however, of the legal issues involved in all divorces requiring a division of property. Assets acquired before the marriage need to be distinguished from assets acquired during the marriage. A divorce attorney could make that crucial distinction in court when a judge is dividing marital assets.

Source: CNN Money, "Oil tycoon could face record divorce judgment", Steve Hargreaves, August 12, 2014

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