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Stocks, appreciation at the center of property division dispute

When two people get divorced in Minnesota, it may seem fairly straightforward to part ways. However, there are significant legal complexities that can make this a very difficult process. For example, dividing property can be one of the polarizing issues that can complicate a divorce. This is because splitting up assets is not necessarily as easy as each spouse taking half of everything. Considerations must be made for what is and is not marital property. This can be a difficult process when it comes to assets like stocks and business earnings.

The recent divorce between a billionaire and his wife is a good illustration of how confusing it can be to identify and separate marital property. While most Minnesotans don't have this much money or net worth to consider, this case may be interesting to people who are considering a divorce and may own valuable stock. 

Sources report that the billionaire oilman and his wife were married for 26 years before they decided to divorce. They had no prenuptial agreement in place, which means that they had not identified any nonmarital assets as such before they were married. Now they are trying to determine if the husband's 125 million shares of stock in an oil company, as well as the enhanced value of the stock, should be classified as marital property and divided.

A judge recently ruled that the stock belonged to the man and he will not have to give any shares to his estranged wife. However, the stock has appreciated substantially since they were married, and a judge will have to determine whether that increase in value is a result of marital effort. If it is determined that the growth is a result of the man's actions, as opposed to uncontrollable market conditions, the value could be considered marital property and would be divided between spouses.

This is just one example of the complex issues that can come up in a high net worth divorce. When there is a significant amount of money at stake, it can be crucial to work with an attorney to protect your interests in a divorce and make sure that assets are divided appropriately.

Source: Tulsa World, "Divorce could affect Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm's controlling stake in oil company," March 20, 2014

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