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Property division arguments surface in Hamm divorce appeals

Parties in Texas civil cases have the right to appeal a court's decision. According to the American Bar Association, appeals generally must have more substance to them than the unhappiness of a litigant. Appeals often assert there were procedural mistakes or errors in facts presented at trial.

At the end of a long, high net worth divorce trial in November, the head of Continental Resources was ordered to pay his former spouse more than $995 million. At the time, billionaire Harold Hamm said he was satisfied the decision was fair. Ex-wife Sue Ann Arnall, formerly Sue Ann Hamm, almost immediately filed an appeal, claiming she was due more of the former couple's vast marital wealth.

By mid-December, the oil baron had filed an appeal of his own. The timing of the appeal coincided with a significant drop in oil prices, dramatically affecting the value of shares in Continental Resources. Harold Hamm owns 68 percent of the oil company.

The property division ruling, in part, was based upon Hamm's personal influence on Continental's worth. The appeal alleges the oil price drop, and subsequent loss in share price, proved Hamm had less to do with the company's value than factors out of the ex-husband's control.

Marital property accumulated through a spouse's "skills and efforts" are divisible in the state where the divorce trial took place. The 68-year-old chief executive officer argued evidence of the company's share values used during the trial did not take the oil market's uncontrollable factors into consideration.

Hamm had been ordered to pay more than $322 million to his ex-wife by the end of 2014, followed by $7 million monthly installments until the full marital debt was paid. The appeals suspended payments.

An ex-spouse must consider the costs and possible consequences of appealing a divorce ruling, even when a valid reason to appeal exists. Attorneys offer advice about the pros and cons of additional litigation.

Source: USA Today, "Oil baron Harold Hamm appeals divorce ruling" Kevin McCoy, Dec. 30, 2014

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