I recently read an interesting article involving divorce and division of assets. Sue Ann Arnall, who divorced oil magnate Harold Hamm in Oklahoma, intends to move forward with her appeal of the November 2014 Divorce Order even after cashing a $975 million check from the Husband which was the entire balance owed to her of the roughly $1 billion she was awarded. So he wrote her the check. Case closed. So far this sounds like a normal outcome of a case and it was all resolved, right?
As it turns out, it wasn’t. The Wife is appealing because her Husband is worth about $18 billion and she wants more. This is where, in Florida, the determination of what is marital and what is non-marital assets would come into issue. For example, if the Husband earned that money long before the marriage, she would not necessarily be automatically entitled to ½ of it.
Since she cashed the check, the Wife might have trouble pursuing her appeal. The Husband’s lawyers argue that the Wife’s deposit of the check was likely to end her case, and if she continues her appeal, they will try getting it dismissed since she had already accepted the money from the earlier ruling. While I don’t handle appeals of divorces, this sounds to me that this argument against appeal is faulted. The Wife cashing the check is not the same as her entering into an agreement, which would not be appealable. But, again, I don’t do appeals and I certainly don’t know Oklahoma law as I practice Family law in Florida.
The Husband also is looking into appealing due to the falling gas prices taking billions from his personal fortune. I have to assume he will argue that the trial court incorrectly valued his assets. This is certainly a potentially appealable issue. However, it is important to note that because the divorce has been ongoing since 2012, another interesting issue will arise as to when to value the assets. The valuation of assets in a Florida Divorce is usually taken at the date of filing the case. However, if those assets rise or fall during the case, the court can usually do what is “equitable”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Kissimmee Divorce Attorney Shawn Hungate.