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Oil tycoon could set new record in divorce

California residents might be interested in what could be a record divorce settlement. An oil tycoon worth an estimated $20.2 billion is divorcing his wife after a 26-year marriage. The tycoon made most of his money as founder and chairman of the oil company Continental Resources. The company pioneered the now popular use of fracking to tap previously difficult to obtain oil deposits.

Since most of the man's wealth was accrued during his marriage, the vast majority is up for consideration as marital assets to be divided. If the wife were to receive only one quarter of the total wealth, then the settlement would set a new record, topping the $4.5 billion Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev paid to his ex-wife.

There are several factors that will determine the amount the wife will receive. Since the husband owned the majority of company shares before the marriage, a great deal will hinge on proving that the wife contributed to the growth of the company in some way and is thus entitled to a share of the profits. The date used to determine asset separation is very important as well. The farther back the date used, the more likely the wife will be entitled to a greater share of assets.

A high-asset divorce can become very complicated. One way to commonly protect assets is to use a prenuptial agreement that predetermines asset ownership and separation. While not infallible, such agreements can make divorce proceedings much simpler and clearer and help protect a wealthy individual from possible abuse by a less wealthy spouse. A family law attorney may be able to assist in drafting a prenuptial agreement.

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

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