Why appealing a $1 billion divorce isn't as crazy as it sounds

Recent case highlights some major pitfalls in high-assets divorces

Most people, unsurprisingly, will have raised their eyebrows at the news, recently reported by NBC News, that an ex-wife awarded a $1 billion dollar divorce plans to appeal the ruling. Despite the vast sum involved, however, many analysts say that the figure awarded to the wife may have been unfair, especially considering it represents only a small fraction of the former couple's entire marital estate. The case highlights a number of issues that can arise during high-asset divorces both in Texas and throughout the country.

Appealing a billion-dollar divorce

An Oklahoma judge recently awarded the ex-wife, who had been married to the CEO of a major energy company, a nearly $1 billion divorce. While the figure was impressive, it also represented just six percent of the couple's marital estate and, as such, the wife described the ruling as unfair and has already appealed.

As the Washington Post reports, while many people may accuse the wife of being greedy, the truth is that the husband, whose net worth is $18 billion, will be able to hold on to the vast majority of that wealth. Considering that the spouses were also married for 26 years, many analysts are calling the wife's award surprisingly small and perhaps even unfair.

Skill or luck?

Unusually for such a high-asset couple, the spouses did not have a premarital agreement, meaning property division in the divorce was subject to Oklahoma law. The problem in this divorce is that most of the wealth was built up during the marriage, which would usually mean that the wealth would be divided equally between both spouses.

However, the equal division would only apply if that wealth was a result of one of the spouses', in this case the husband's, business skills. If the wealth was instead the result of luck and factors beyond the spouse's control, such as rising oil prices, then that wealth would remain with the one spouse. As such, the husband was in the unusual position of having to argue that his company's success had less to do with his business skill and more to do with luck. Based on the ruling, it appears that the judge largely agreed with the husband's position.

High-asset divorce

Although most divorces do not involve such vast sums, the above case nonetheless shows how high-asset divorces, especially if there is a lack of a premarital agreement, can lead to complex financial questions. While divorce laws in Texas are different from those used in Oklahoma, business valuations are still a major component of many high-asset divorces in Texas.

As a result, anybody currently involved in a high-asset divorce needs to contact a family law attorney who has the expertise to deal with the complex issues raised by this type of divorce. An experienced attorney can help make sure that clients proceed through a divorce with the confidence they need to ensure their assets and interests will be protected.