If you are a business owner in California with a prospering business and a failing marriage, will a divorce jeopardize your business? Is there a way a Walnut Creek divorce attorney can help?
In a California divorce, if there is a dispute over the marital property and assets, a court will usually divide a couple’s property and assets in half. But for a business owner, losing half of the business that you’ve built over a period of years is unacceptable.
How can your business prosper – or even survive – if half of its value is lost? If you own a business in this state, and if you are about to divorce, don’t do something illegal or foolish in order to make your business seem less profitable.
IF YOUR BUSINESS IS THREATENED BY DIVORCE, WHO CAN HELP YOU?
Instead, have an experienced divorce lawyer help you legally protect your business and your long-term interests in a divorce. Even before divorce papers are filed, if your business may be at risk in a divorce, you should seek the advice of a good divorce attorney.
For California business owners who are facing a divorce, the prospect of losing the business that you’ve built over a period of years is an all-too-real threat. In fact, there are several ways that a divorce can pose a threat to a prospering business.
Something like this, for example, happens far too often: Someone marries young and starts up a modest business that may not be worth much at the time. But a few years later, when the business is worth several million dollars, you start having marital issues and considering divorce.
In the absence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that specifies otherwise, all of the assets that a couple acquires in a marriage belong to both partners equally and must be split “fifty-fifty” in a divorce. However, there are a number of ways to divide – or to preserve – your business.
HOW CAN YOU PRESERVE THE BUSINESS YOU’VE BUILT?
If you are a California business owner and you are considering or expecting a divorce, you need to begin to employ the strategies that can help you keep your business and help you keep it profitable. Here are several of the precautions that you will need to take:
1. Maintain accurate and comprehensive business records. It is imperative to keep your family finances entirely separate from your business finances.
2. Pay yourself well. If you’ve been taking a modest paycheck to keep as much as possible in the business, a court may use those additional business funds as a reason to award more of your company’s assets to your spouse.
3. If your ex has been active in the business, ease him or her out. If your ex’s role in the business has been prominent, or if your ex has worked for years at the business, he or she will have a strong case for receiving a share of the profits.
4. Consider sacrificing other assets. In California divorces, a couple’s assets are totaled up and divided. Consider losing other assets – like retirement accounts, vehicles, or real estate – in order to keep one hundred percent of your business after the divorce.
5. Obtain an accurate, independent valuation. Have an objective valuation expert provide you with a valuation of the business so that you won’t end up paying an ex more than his or her fair share.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “CHARACTERIZE” A BUSINESS IN A DIVORCE?
When one spouse in a California divorce owns a business, the business must be “characterized” and “valued.” The business must be characterized as marital property, individual property, or a blend of both.
“Valuation” is the process of determining precisely what the business is worth. Characterization is usually more complicated because a number of questions must be asked and answered, such as:
1. Was the business inherited, bought, or started up before or after the marriage ceremony?
2. If you inherited, did you inherit the entire business, or was it split among multiple heirs?
3. Do you have a business partner or partners?
Even if you started up your business during the course of your marriage, that alone is no reason to assume that the business will be characterized as marital property, especially if you started up the operation with your own funds.
CAN A DISPUTE OVER YOUR BUSINESS BE AVOIDED?
If you can reach an agreement independently with the spouse whom you are divorcing regarding the division of properties and assets, including your business, you can save considerable time and resources, and you will also save yourself from a great deal of anxiety and/or aggravation.
If divorcing spouses want to keep operating as business partners, neither spouse will have to relinquish his or her interest in the business, and the business will not have to be valuated. Spouses can also simply decide to sell the business and split the proceeds.
If you are a California business owner and you are considering a divorce, or if you have been served with divorce papers by your spouse, you must consult a reliable California divorce lawyer to have your options evaluated and explained to you.
HOW WILL A GOOD DIVORCE LAW FIRM HELP YOU?
A qualified divorce attorney can guide you step-by-step through the divorce process and help you determine precisely what property and assets you are entitled to under California’s divorce laws.
Most divorce-related property and asset disputes can be resolved away from the courtroom, through arbitration or through mediation, but if no agreement can be reached, a good divorce attorney will be prepared to represent you – and to fight aggressively for your interests – in court.
When it’s complicated, the division of property and assets can be a hotly-contested issue in a California divorce. Such disputes can drag out for months, and in the most complex divorce cases, for more than a year.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A DIVORCE ATTORNEY?
If you own a business in California, and if you are getting a divorce, you must have trustworthy legal advice and aggressive legal representation if you expect a favorable outcome.
Don’t wait to get the legal help that you need. Do it before divorce papers are filed or as early as possible in the divorce process. Having the counsel of a good divorce attorney is your right, and if you own a business in the state of California, your future could depend on it.