How Oklahoma became home to one of the costliest divorces in history

in a family dispute?

By G.W. Schulz

When matrimony became acrimony for one of Oklahoma’s wealthiest power couples, their divorce in 2014 attracted national headlines. That’s because the breakup resulted in what was reported to be one of the largest divorce settlements in history. 

Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm was reportedly worth billions at the time. His ex-wife, Sue Ann Arnall, was eligible for a considerable portion of that fortune under Oklahoma law. 

Hamm is the CEO and founder of oil-and-gas giant Continental Resources based in Oklahoma City. A divorce judge in 2014 ruled that Hamm could hold on to 68 percent of the company in the split-up. Continental today is reportedly worth some $30 billion, and Hamm and his family are now said to own much more of the company than at the time of the divorce. 

Ex-wife Arnall initially contested the amount awarded to her by a judge. But she eventually cashed a check from Hamm for $975 million, according to news accounts.

Hamm and Arnall were married for 26 years. Arnall had a long, successful career of her own at Continental as an attorney and executive. Hamm had first established the company in 1967 at age 21. Continental helped pioneer modern techniques for fracturing and drilling in the energy sector. 

In court filings, Arnall said her ex-husband was being allowed to keep too much of the wealth that the couple had accrued together. She cited a state law directing that wealth generated by shared efforts in a marriage be split up. Hamm countered that the Continental’s success was attributable to “passive” market forces rather than his ex-wife. Wrote Reuters about the settlement:   

“Although Hamm owned Continental before the marriage in 1988, the value of his shares surged 400-fold during the union. … To limit what he would owe, Hamm’s defense sought to show that his company’s growth during the marriage resulted mostly from ‘passive’ factors beyond his control, such as rising oil prices. Under Oklahoma law, only the growth in wealth stemming from the active efforts and skills of either spouse during the marriage is split in a divorce.” 

Are you caught up in a family dispute? Do you need someone you can trust? Reach out to Norwood.Law for a free consultation at 918-582-6464. In addition to family law, we practice personal injury, business, estates, criminal defense, and more.