One of the largest divorce judgments in United States history was rendered this week, when Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion to his ex-wife.
After a nine-week divorce trial that ended last month, Oklahoma Judge Howard Haralson ruled, in an 80-page decision, that Sue Ann Hamm should receive a total of $995.5 million, among other significant assets.
And it would seem that Mr. Hamm got off lightly. The marital estate was estimated to be worth at least $18 billion, largely tied up in Continental shares, and Ms. Hamm sought a much larger sum than what she was awarded.
Mr. Hamm controls 68% of the oil company’s stock, and the ruling does not require him to part with those shares. Still, Ms. Hamm will shortly become one of the 100 wealthiest women in the U.S.
Judge Haralson … Read More »
When negotiating a marital settlement agreement or separation agreement, you will inevitably hear your counsel talk about certain standard “boilerplate” provisions. You will probably just glance over these provisions, and your attorney will likely only touch on them briefly while focusing on the meat of the agreement—custody and visitation, support, property, debts, retirement, etc. Unfortunately, such a crude review of these provisions could prove costly.
Take for example the case of Hale v. Hale (2003), wherein Wife was awarded a portion of both Husband’s employer-provided pension plan and his employer-contributed 401(k). Wife had sought an equitable distribution of both assets, while Husband had maintained that only the pension plan was to be divided per the parties’ separation agreement. The agreement referred in its retirement provisions to the “pension plan” in the singular. However, the heading of the retirement provisions and the parties’ boilerplate preamble language … Read More »
It’s a common story. Pursuant to your Virginia divorce decree, you are ordered to pay your ex-spouse $1,200/month in child support for your three children. A few years later, your oldest child graduates from high school and goes off to college. So what do you do? You figure $1,200/month divided by three kids = $400 per kid, so you’ll reduce your monthly payments to your your ex-spouse to just $800 for the two remaining eligible kids. Right?
Wrong. And in fact, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble this way. You cannot unilaterally change your child support amount without the court’s involvement. Your spouse can later take you to court and you will almost certainly be held accountable for that extra $400/month that you stopped paying.
How could that be, if one of your children is no longer eligible for child … Read More »
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on October 6, 2014 that it was not going to consider appeals from lawmakers in five states, including Virginia, who wished to uphold same-sex marriage bans. The result: same-sex couples now have the right to get married in Virginia.
As with any other couples, same-sex couples should always consider a premarital agreement, more commonly referred to as a prenuptial agreement or “prenup,” prior to entering into marriage. Especially as Virginia divorce law changes to accommodate same-sex couples, the use of a prenup can ensure that parties to a same-sex marriage are protected despite any shifts or ambiguities in the law.
Despite the widely held belief that prenups are only for the rich, a premarital agreement is something that every couple should consider. A prenup protects the premarital assets of one or both parties and allows a couple to contemplate … Read More »
Parents going through a divorce or encountering custody or visitation issues can face a very difficult and stressful time. Each custody case is different, and there is no definitive “how-to” guide which will answer every question that might come up in your case. However, the following list of do’s and don’ts should provide a helpful starting point:
Do your best to cooperate and co-parent while your case is pending or while you are awaiting your hearing.
Explain to your children, depending on their age and maturity level, generally what is happening and why Mom and Dad may have to go to court. If the kids may have to go court, more conversations need to take place or perhaps a guardian ad litem (GAL) should be involved in the case.
Keep a journal and/or a calendar of what you do as a parent on a weekly or monthly … Read More »
The first step for most people in obtaining legal counsel for a custody, divorce or other family law matter is to have an initial consultation with an attorney. Most consultations are scheduled for one-half to one full hour and most family lawyers in Northern Virginia do charge a consultation fee. The consultation is your opportunity to describe your situation to an attorney and receive an overview of the legal issues in your case, and perhaps a proposed course of action. It is also your opportunity to interview the lawyer in order to decide if they are the person to best represent you and your legal interests. Likewise, the consultation allows the attorney to determine if the case is one in which they can offer assistance.
Here are ten tips to help you make the most of your family law initial consultation:
Seek advice as … Read More »
Any person taken to court has certain rights that must be respected. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution require that neither the federal government nor individual states deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without “due process of law.” At its most fundamental level, due process requires the defendant be served with notice that a case has been filed against them, and given the opportunity to appear before the court to defend themselves.
The increasing mobility of individuals in our society has added complexity to the issues of due process. Pioneers took six months to travel across the country on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, risking disease and death along the way. Today, someone can load up their belongings in a U-Haul truck and relocate across the entire country in about a week. This extreme freedom and ease … Read More »
As the calendar turns to September and football season begins anew, children all over the country have returned to school. For them, the carefree days of summer give way to the structured rigors of academic pursuits. But their parents may enjoy the respite that school hours provide.
With the start of a new school year upon us, perhaps it’s a good time to revisit some of the most contentious issues that separated or divorced parents grapple with when their children are in school.
Information Sharing. A classic area of animosity involves the use of children as a conduit for information between parents, which should generally be a no-no. This places your child squarely between you and your ex-spouse, and will lead to unintended negative consequences. There should be no need for Jimmy to tell mom about the parent-teacher conference next week, because … Read More »
Parents sometimes unintentionally sabotage their own custody cases. Sometimes the sabotage happens before the parent retains counsel, and other times it happens after an attorney is involved. Here are four pitfalls to avoid if you want to win your custody case:
1. Failure to cooperate with all attorneys involved. If you are represented by an attorney, it is extremely unlikely that you will speak to opposing counsel, except at trial. However, you will need to interact with your own counsel and possibly one other attorney—a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). It is imperative that you are cooperative and honest with both these attorneys.
Hopefully, you hired your attorney because he or she is competent, knows the law, and impressed you. It is important to listen to your attorney’s advice. If you believe you are not receiving good advice then seek a second opinion before you disregard your attorney’s advice … Read More »
Summertime! It is the time of year where many of our military families are going through their permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and many of our civilian families are moving before the new school year begins.
What does relocation mean for separated or divorced parents who are co-parenting a child in Virginia? The juvenile and domestic relations district courts of Virginia will examine the best interests of the child in each case by applying the statutory factors of Virginia Code Section 20-124.3; but a relocating parent has a significant burden beyond those factors.
Where there is a current court order in place, an impending relocation is always considered a material change in circumstances which allows the court to re-examine the facts of the case.
Unfortunately for the parent hoping to relocate, the current trend of the Virginia Court of Appeals in the … Read More »