Lack of prenup at heart of high-assets divorce settlement

The news of a divorce settlement being reached in one high-profile dispute may have satisfied the curiosity of many Utah legal and financial experts recently, as the agreement was inspected by some to become the most expensive divorce settlement ever. And while doubts still linger over the prospect of either party appealing the court ruling, the judgment illustrates the profound role that prenuptial agreements can play in property division proceedings.

A judge recently ruled on the divorce settlement between one of the richest men in the country and his wife of 26 years. According to the court, the CEO of Continental Resources is obligated to pay his ex-wife almost $1 billion. That decision was apparently based largely on the fact that the couple did not sign a prenuptial agreement before marrying in 1988.

At the time the couple wed, the man was in the process of developing the oil company. As a result, his wealth increased substantially during the time of the couple’s marriage. Property division laws in the state where the divorce case was tried mandate that income earned through the spouse’s own efforts can be considered marital property at the time of divorce. The judge presiding over the case found, therefore, that the CEO’s wealth should be subject to property division, despite the fact that the ex-husband’s attorneys had apparently attempted to downplay his role in the company’s success.

Determining whether assets should be considered marital or non-marital property in divorce proceedings can be a long and complex process. Fortunately, speaking with an attorney can often help to gain insight into common high-asset divorce issues.

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