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Ruling shows importance of marital vs. non-marital property

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When most Maryland residents think about complex asset division in a divorce, they probably envision discussions over how to sell their most valuable asset - the family home - and divide the proceeds. However, in a high asset divorce, the stakes can be much more significant than that from a financial standpoint.

One American billionaire recently got some very good news in his ongoing divorce litigation. Harold Hamm, a man who made his billions in the oil industry and who founded Continental Resources, has been going through the divorce process with his soon-to-be ex-wife for months. One of the biggest questions in the case was what would become of Hamm's 70 percent controlling business interest in Continental Resources, a company that has seen very healthy growth in its stock valuation over the last several years.

That question has now been answered. The judge in the divorce case recently ruled that Hamm's business interest was not part of the marital property in the case - stating that the property was held by Hamm prior to his marriage, and thus was to be termed "pre-marital" property.

Although most people do not have to agonize over what could become of their billions of dollars worth of assets, some divorce cases involve more property interests and value than even the divorcing couple may realize at first. Retirement plans, business assets and real estate holdings can easily add up to significant net worth. When this is the case, asset valuation will be crucial. And, as Harold Hamm's divorce case demonstrates, the process of determining what exactly should be included in the marital property that will be subject to division can be extremely important as well.

Source: Forbes, "Judge: Billionaire Hamm To Retain Control Of Continental Resources In Divorce Settlement," Christopher Helman, March 4, 2014

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