Divorce Complications When You Have a Business with Your Spouse

Divorce Complications When You Have a Business with Your Spouse

By: M. Scott Gordon

Getting divorced in Chicago is never easy, even when you already live a life that is relatively separate from your spouse’s life. For instance, some married couples in the Chicago area may work in completely different fields and have opposite schedules, which can mean that they already feel separated from one another in some sense, even if they are still married and living in the same home. Then there are situations where just the opposite is true: married couples that have gone into business together and spend most of each day working together, followed by time at home together. In these cases, divorce can be extremely contentious, especially when it comes to dividing the business.

What do you need to know about divorce complications when you have a business with your spouse? An article in Forbes gives tips for handling divorce in a family business.

Consider Your Options for Remaining in Business Together or Keeping the Business Open

When you own a business with your spouse, you will need to come to a conclusion about whether to remain in business together, to find a solution in which one of the spouses leaves the business, or to close the doors of the business altogether. If this small business is your livelihood and source of income (as well as the source of income for your spouse), closing the business may be an extremely difficult choice to consider. At the same time, if you do not have a good working relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you will need to consider options that do not involve maintaining your business relationship.

Some spouses, even after a divorce, are able to continue working together. The spouses can retain their own interests in the business, and neither is forced to sell. In addition, if the spouses are going to keep the business running just as they did prior to the marriage, they may not need to work with valuation experts to value the business for purposes of property division under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA).

If the parties cannot work together, however, then there are typically two options:

  • Decide to sell the business. The court will value the business and will consider it alongside other marital assets.
  • Buy out your spouse. It may be possible to keep the business open by buying out your spouse’s interest in the business.

As you can imagine, both buying out your spouse or selling the business altogether can be extremely complicated, but a divorce lawyer can help.

When Separate Assets Are Commingled with Business Assets

If the basic issues surrounding divorce and your business were not complicated enough, it is important to recognize that these issues typically become even more complex when one or both of the spouses has commingled separate assets with business assets. Often, one or both spouses will use money or assets acquired before the marriage to help get the business running or to keep the business afloat in a difficult stretch.

Commingling can make it extremely difficult to differentiate between marital and non-marital property. You should work with a divorce attorney to learn more about tracing separate property once it has been commingled.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Chicago

If you have questions or concerns about divorce and your family business, a divorce lawyer in Chicago can assist you. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC for more information.