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The longer the marriage, the harder and messier the divorce, experts say.

The reason why is that with time we build a life with houses, a family, assets including a business a business together.

While you are married it really doesn’t matter who is the actual owner of the business. You might both be working in it and even if you don’t have joint accounts or ownership when it comes to the law – it belongs to both of you equally.

Many people think that the business is not considered matrimonial asset, especially if it is a franchise or a company.

But they would be wrong. Even partial ownership is considered matrimonial asset and your soon-to-be-ex might turn out to be an owner in your partnership accounting firm or trade business.

Here are the facts:

  1. Any property or assets acquired during the marriage are considered matrimonial and are subject to distribution between the spouses.
  2. Any property inherited or received as a gift (by a third party) by one of the spouses remains theirs even after the divorce.
  3. Any property acquired before the marriage belongs only to the original owner in the way it was reported at the time.
  4. Any property under a prenuptial agreement is governed by this contract.

These are the four main rules that concern your business, your separation and ultimately your divorce.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  1. You own a business that you started before you got married.

You owe your spouse equal share of the dollar amount of the business’s growth during the marriage. If the business was worth $500,000 when you got married and is now $600,000, they can claim an equal part of the difference.

You signed a prenup with your spouse but after they started their business you worked there for free for years.

You might think that the prenup decides it all, but a good lawyer can make claims disregarding the prenup if they can prove that your contribution to the business is what took it so far.

  1. The family brick-and-mortar store you inherited from your parents.

During a divorce, no matter the form of that divorce, it is yours to keep. It will not be discussed in the legal proceeding for your divorce unless you put your spouse’s name as a co-owner. 

  1. You own a business and are afraid that divorce might be an option to think about soon. What should you do to protect your business?

The best option you have is to sign a postnuptial agreement. This agreement is signed after the fact of marriage. It can cover any issues you want, including your business. In the postnuptial agreement you can exclude your business from the matrimonial assets and grow it without the fear that it might be taken away from you.

It is a difficult decision to make and even more difficult to enforce.   Most people don’t like prenups and even less postnups. It is up to you to decide what is more important for you and how to go about it.

An experienced family lawyer is your best friend when thinking about separation and divorce and considering how to deal with a business. Consult someone you can trust, and they will give you specific advice suitable for your situation.

At Digital Age Lawyers we understand that separation and ultimately divorce is a very personal and difficult journey.