Divorcing when you own a business together

You and your spouse may have found it a delight to work side by side in your business or professional practice. On the other hand, it may have been a challenge from the first day. Whether you began your Florida business together, or one of you inherited it or established it before you married, you are now business partners. While this may have simplified many areas of your life, it is certainly a complication now that you are preparing to divorce.

Rough estimates show that about 3 million couples jointly own businesses. All of them will face the same decisions about the fate of the business if they should decide to divorce. A jointly owned business is one of the most challenging assets to divide fairly when a marriage ends.

Options for your jointly owned business

If one of you was more vested in the practice or company prior to the marriage, it may seem only fair for that spouse to have a greater say in the outcome. However, in a divorce, what happened prior to the marriage is less important than what happened during the marriage. If both of you contributed to the finances, operations and success of the practice, the law considers the business – or at least parts of it – to be marital property.

There are several options available for you to consider, and the best-case scenario is for you and your spouse to reach an agreement outside the courtroom. Consider these alternatives:

  • Buying out your spouse: Your divorce settlement can offer other assets, a cash payment or a payment plan for you to take over your spouse's share of the company.
  • Offering your share: On the other hand, cash or other assets may be more attractive to you if your spouse is willing to negotiate such an offer for your share of the practice.
  • Selling it all: If neither of you wants the business after the divorce, you may reach an agreeable appraisal, sell it to a third party and divide the proceeds.

The most difficult option may be to continue running the business together. Of course, this may require intense negotiation to ensure both of you have a clear understanding of your responsibilities in the business. If you and your spouse expect an amical parting and believe you can continue working together without jeopardizing the confidence of your clients and staff, this may be one way to avoid the complications of separating the business asset.

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