Divorce is a complex and emotionally taxing process. If you own a small business, the stakes are even higher. Your business is not just a source of income; it's often a labor of love, years in the making. So, it's natural to wonder: how will my small business be affected by divorce?
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
The first thing to consider is whether the business is considered marital or separate property. Generally, if the business was started during the marriage and both spouses contributed to its growth, it's likely to be considered marital property. In contrast, if one spouse owned the business before the marriage and kept it separate, it might remain separate property. Case law on this aspect is tricky and nuanced so consult your attorney for specifics as it relates to your situation.
Determining the value of a business in a divorce can be a contentious issue. You may need to hire a forensic accountant or a business appraiser to establish the business's worth. This valuation will be critical when negotiating property division.
Division of Assets
The division of your business will depend on whether you reside in a community property state or an equitable distribution state. In community property states, each spouse is typically entitled to half of all marital assets, including businesses. In equitable distribution states, assets are divided based on a variety of factors like contribution to the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the needs of each party.
Buyouts and Co-ownership
If the business is marital property, one option is to buy out your spouse's share. This can be an expensive route, but it allows you to keep the business intact. Alternatively, some ex-spouses continue to co-own and operate the business together post-divorce, although this requires a strong working relationship.
Spousal and Child Support
Your business income could affect spousal and child support calculations. Higher business income may result in higher support payments, making it even more essential to get an accurate business valuation.
Safeguarding Your Business
There are ways to protect your business before divorce becomes a consideration. Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements can specify what happens to the business in the event of a divorce. Keeping clear financial boundaries between business and personal assets can also be helpful.
Legal and Professional GuidanceDivorce involving a small business is often complex, and it’s advised to consult legal professionals who specialize in both family law and business assets. They can help you navigate the complexities and minimize the impact on your business.
Divorce can have significant implications for your small business, but proactive planning and expert advice can help you manage the challenges. As each divorce is unique, you need to meet with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation. Remember, protecting your business means protecting your future, so make informed decisions guided by professional advice.
Attorney Sean Y. Palmer has over 20 years of legal experience as a Texas Attorney and over 25 years as a Qualified Mediator in civil, family and CPS cases. Palmer practices exclusively in the area Family Law and handles Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Adoptions, and other Family Law Litigation cases. He represents clients throughout the greater Houston Galveston area, including: Clear Lake, NASA, Webster, Friendswood, Seabrook, League City, Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Porte, La Marque, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, Kemah, Pasadena, Baytown, Deer Park, Harris County, and Galveston County, Texas.
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