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High-asset divorce and business: is it premarital property? PART 1

Although any divorce can be difficult when it comes to property division, it can undoubtedly be complicated when one or both of the spouses own a business. That, combined with many years of marriage, can lead to very complex property division issues for Fort Lauderdale residents.

Take, for example, the case of the founder of a successful company, now described as a "drilling powerhouse." The man is splitting from his wife of 25 years. Along with likely a slew of typical property division issues comes the division of company shares. According to divorce law in the state where the business is based, most of the man's 68 percent stake in his company is considered premarital property. That totals to more than $14.6 billion. But the law also indicates that if the company's stock price went up during their marriage thanks to the efforts of the husband, she is entitled to half of that amount.

The company’s initial public offering was in 2007. Between then and the divorce, the shares increased more than 400 percent, totaling a $6.9 billion jump. That means the man’s wife could potentially get half of that, if not more.

According to court paperwork, the wife is indeed fighting for potentially billions of dollars. She has requested more than 600,000 pages of documentation from the company in hopes of proving that her husband’s leadership led to the company’s strong financial situation. In our next post we will continue discussing this high-profile case, with a concentration on what the husband would have to prove in order to keep the value of his shares in the company.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Divorce May Weaken Oilman’s Stake in Drilling Powerhouse,” Tom Fowler, March 21, 2014

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