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Some privacy granted for billionaire’s high net worth divorce

Divorces are matters of public record for Texas spouses of every income level. Few reasons compel judges to conduct divorce trials in closed courtrooms or seal divorce records. Even the world's 36th richest man wasn't able to lock out the public or media completely from his high net worth divorce trial.

Complex asset division is at the center of the divorce trial for Harold and Sue Ann Hamm, married since 1988. Harold Hamm was the founder of Continental Resources in the 1960s. His wife once worked for the energy company.

The chief executive officer's estimated net worth is $19.4 billion, largely tied up in his controlling stake in the oil company, based in a neighboring state. The public and press will be barred from parts of the Hamm divorce trial dealing with confidential details about Continental Resources. Attorneys indicated a significant portion of the trial -- expected to last eight weeks – will focus on the couple's split of oil property, including yet-to-be-tapped oil reserves.

The judge felt disclosure of business information that otherwise would not be public would be destructive for Continental by unfairly benefiting the company's competitors. The confidential information will be used to establish the value of the Hamms' marital assets and subsequently, how the property should be divided. Portions of the divorce trial that do not pertain to the energy company assets will be conducted with an open door.

Assets and debts cannot be divided fairly until parties are aware of all the separate and marital property. This task can be extremely complicated in high asset divorces, especially when one spouse attempts to hide property or debts from the other spouse. Business valuation specialists, tax experts and forensic accountants are often vital to the process.

Once assets have been counted and valued, spousal negotiations begin. When disputes arise, the case ends up in front of a judge the way the billionaire's divorce did.

Source: The Oklahoman, "Judge closes Hamm divorce hearing to protect company interests" Randy Ellis, Aug. 05, 2014

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