The Issue of Equalization: Sue Ann Arnall and Harold Hamm

AOL has reported that Sue Ann Arnall, the second wife of Harold Hamm, is appealing the ruling made after the divorce hearing in which Mr. Hamm was ordered to pay $974,970,317.17. Harold Hamm is the Chief Executive of the Continental Resources oil company. Before their marriage in 1988, Mr. Hamm owned substantial shares in the company, however the company, as reported by AOL, was only worth $33 million. Continental Resources is now worth approximately $13 billion, and, as such, Ms. Arnall wants her share of the increase.

In Ontario, there is a sharing of value of the property owned by married spouses. The goal is that each spouse will share equally in the economic wealth of the marriage at breakdown, without any change in property ownership. In determining the amount of an equalization payment pursuant to Part I of the Family Law Act in Ontario, the following steps are taken:

Step 1: Determine the valuation date or V day;

Step 2: Determine what property was owned by each spouse on V day;

Step 3: Determine whether any property constitutes excluded property;

Step 4: Assign values to property;

Step 5: Determine the value of deductions;

  • Debts and liabilities at V day (including contingent tax liabilities); and
  • The value of property (other than the matrimonial home) owned at the date of marriage, after deducting debts and liabilities (other than those related directly to the acquisition or significant improvement of the matrimonial home) calculated at the date of marriage;

Step 6: Calculate each spouse's Net Family Property (NFP), and determine the amount that is one-half the difference between the greater and the lesser.

Step 7: Assess any claim for entitlement to more than one-half the difference.

Without knowledge of any other assets owned by Mr. Hamm or Ms. Arnall, it is difficult to predict the outcome of this matter if they were before an Ontario Court. However, considering the substantial growth in Continental Resources, Ms. Arnall may receive substantially more than what was originally ordered.

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