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The things you learn by looking at someone else's divorce

The high-asset divorce of oil tycoon Harold Hamm from his wife Sue Ann Hamm has grabbed much of the nation's attention, probably much to the chagrin of the couple. But even though their divorce is happening in another state and is likely governed by laws that may be different from other states, their case still highlights some important issues that arise during divorce.

For couples here in Massachusetts, a lot can be learned about the divorce process and the problems couples may have to address when separating. The case also demonstrates why some divorces require more legal help than others.

So what are some issues the Hamm's are addressing at this time? Let's take a look.

Property division. Like any divorce, the Hamm's will have to deal with the slings and arrows associated with property division. Just like here in Massachusetts, the Hamm's assets and liabilities will be divided according to equitable distribution laws. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, the courts will determine fair distribution of property which, in the end, may not be completely equal.

Date of separation. When the Hamm's officially separated is another source of contention that will play a huge role in the divorce because it will become a determining factor during the property division step. The longer the marriage, the more marital assets are considered for distribution. Deciding when a marriage ended though can create problems, especially when millions of dollars could be at stake.

Business valuation. While this may be an issue that many of our readers may not encounter, it's certainly creating a problem for the Hamm's because the worth of Mr. Hamm's business will determine how much Mrs. Hamm gets during property division. The court will have to consider whether the company's appreciation was active or passive -- a decision that could sway distribution considerably.

Source: Forbes, "A Multi-Billion Dollar Divorce: What All Divorcing Women Can Learn From Sue Ann Hamm," Jeff Landers, Sept. 22, 2014

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