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Oil tycoon's divorce may result in large judgment

Pennsylvania readers might be interested in the details of a divorce case involving an oil tycoon who is number 39 on Forbes' list of the richest people in the world. Details, however, may be hard to come by as the court overseeing the case sealed most of the records and ordered the trial closed to the public on concerns that proceedings may reveal sensitive information regarding Continental Resources, one of the biggest companies extracting oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale oil formation.

The chairman and founder of the company was in an Oklahoma divorce court with his wife during the week of August 4, according to court documents. His net worth has been estimated at $20.2 billion. An award of even a quarter of that estate would be the largest divorce judgment in history, surpassing the $4.5 billion awarded to the former wife of a Russian billionaire in May. One source reported that the trial is set to take eight weeks.

Among the critical divorce issues in the case are the date used for asset separation and the level of contribution made by the tycoon's wife to the success of Continental Resources. The separation date is significant because the company has experienced rapid growth in recent years; a later separation date will likely mean a larger percentage of the assets would be kept by the tycoon.

The tycoon's wife contributed both as marital partner and as an executive with the company during the couple's 26-year marriage. A matrimonial attorney not directly involved with the case said he saw an estimate that put her likely award between $4 billion and $8 billion.

The couple reportedly does not have a prenuptial agreement. In a case like this though, according to the matrimonial attorney, a prenuptial agreement may not have prevented a large award. Prenuptial agreements can be set aside under many of the same bases as other contracts. A divorce lawyer may be able to help interested parties understand their rights and obligations before, during and after court proceedings. In a typical divorce case, skilled negotiation may bring the case to a close before trial.

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

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