Shortly before their wedding, Mack and Julia opened a business that manufactured and distributed small electronics. Their three partners were Mack’s friends from college. After 12 years, Mack and Julia decided to divorce and began dividing up assets. As business owners, they now had to consider how to handle their business during their divorce.
When it comes to dividing assets and debts in a divorce, Florida is not a community property state. Instead, the state relies on Equitable Distribution to distribute marital assets. The question becomes whether the business is considered a marital asset, and the best way to fairly divide it.
Mack and Julia’s divorce may be more complicated than most. They own and run a business together with additional partners. They each have an interest in the business and have contributed sweat equity.
A business owned by one or both spouses may make up a significant part of their assets. How that business interest is divided may depend on:
Though the business was started before their marriage, Mack and Julia both contributed to the business and owned an interest. However, Julia’s involvement in the electronics company lessened after a few years because she opened an insurance agency on her own. The insurance agency may also be considered a marital asset since it was opened during their marriage; however, Julia’s interest in the electronics company may have decreased in value. A court or mediator typically would consider Mack and Julia’s interests in both business when coming up with a settlement.
No method is foolproof, but there are a few things you can do before divorce becomes an issue:
When opening their electronics business, all the partners should have prepared a buy-sell agreement. Though these agreements can be negotiated at any time during the life of a company, it’s often best to do it right along with the business formation paperwork. The buy-sell would have laid out how to handle the incapacity, death, or divorce of the partners.
Major life events usually trigger a review of estate plans. Divorces are no exception. Not all documents will be automatically changed because of a divorce.
Attorney John Mangan is board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. Please call us at 772-324-9050 or use our Contact Form to set up an appointment. We help clients throughout Florida, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.