Why a billion-dollar divorce contains lessons for all couples

Lack of prenuptial agreement led to highly fraught court battle

The recent billion-dollar settlement of an Oklahoma energy tycoon's divorce has been garnering plenty of headlines lately. The CEO's former wife was awarded $1 billion as part of the couple's divorce proceedings, according to Reuters, which many experts say may have been far less than she deserved. Although such high-figure divorces are unusual, this particular divorce does contain important lessons that all couples can follow, especially as to the importance of prenuptial agreements.

Billion-dollar divorce

Although the public and media expressed surprise at the billion-dollar figure awarded to the CEO's ex-wife, family law experts cautioned that the figure might not have been as fair as it first appears. The wife's attorneys noted that the couple's fortune amounted to $18 billion, meaning that the wife will only get six percent of that sum. She has said she will appeal.

Because the couple did not have a prenuptial agreement, which is unusual for such a high-asset marriage, their divorce was subject to Oklahoma's state laws. As such, the wife had to prove that much of the fortune was due to the couple's hard work, whereas the CEO argued that the bulk of the estate was because of passive income, such as rising oil prices and stocks. Based on the settlement, it appears as though the judge largely sided with the husband.

Importance of prenuptial agreements

The couple's lack of a prenuptial agreement has surprised many, according to Time. While prenuptial agreements are not always airtight, they could have prevented this particular divorce from descending into the highly fraught court battle that it became. At one point, economic analysts even worried that a larger divorce settlement could imperil the husband's control of the company.

By not having a prenuptial agreement, a couple's marital property will be divided according to state law. Unlike Texas, Oklahoma is not a community property state, meaning that the property there had to be divided fairly and equitably. Fairly, of course, as this case shows, does not always mean evenly. Both the husband and wife in this case could have avoided the unwanted surprise of leaving a multi-billion dollar estate to be divided by a judge if they had taken the prudent step of composing a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements in Texas

Although Oklahoma law differs from Texas law concerning divorce, this case should be a warning sign to all Texas couples. Many newlyweds do not like talking about prenuptial agreements, but tackling this taboo topic can save spouses plenty of legal and financial headaches later on.

An experienced family law attorney can help couples who are looking to draft a prenuptial agreement. With expert advice, spouses will have the assurance they need that their family law concerns are being properly and satisfactorily addressed.