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New York divorce: Harold Hamm's ex may get up to $5 billion

Many people in New York know that the rich and famous often rely on a prenuptial agreement to protect their fortunes in the event of a divorce. However, prenuptial agreements are not always as air tight as people think. When a couple gets a divorce, issues such as infidelity can often make such an agreement invalid.

This may be the case for Harold Hamm, an oil billionaire who is getting a divorce from his second wife. The couple has a prenuptial agreement, but it may be invalidated if his wife can prove that he was cheating on her during their marriage. If that happens, the oil billionaire could be ordered by the court to give his soon-to-be ex-wife the largest divorce settlement ever recorded.

A large portion of the oil mogul's $11.3 billion fortune comes in the form of stock from his company, Continental Resources. If his wife is awarded up to half of his fortune, that could change the face of company. The billionaire currently owns about 68 percent of the company's stock. A large divorce settlement could cause him to lose controlling interest in the company.

The outcome of this divorce could be one for the history books, but there is also a lesson to be learned for any New York couple. Relying on a prenuptial agreement to keep assets after a divorce will only work so long as the agreement isn't violated. If one spouse is successful in having the agreement invalidated, all bets are off and the court could end up deciding what happens to not only the couple's joint assets, but each party's individual assets as well.

Source: Forbes, "Oil Billionaire Harold Hamm's Divorce Could Be World's Most Expensive At Over $5 Billion," Clare O'Connor, March 23, 2013