Practical Solutions, Personal Service
Photo of Lisa L. Johnson

What happens to a business when owners divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2024 | Property Division

When owners of a family business go through a divorce, the impact on their company can be significant. Navigating the division of assets, determining the business’s value and deciding on future ownership are complex processes that require careful consideration. In some cases, the intervention of legal and financial professionals is critical.

The outcome of this situation will depend on the specifics of the divorce decree, the business structure at issue and if there are prenuptial or buy-sell agreements in place.

Asset division and business valuation

One of the first steps in understanding the impact of divorce on a jointly owned business is to determine the business’s value. This likely requires a valuation from a professional. The value of the business is then considered in the overall division of assets. Depending on the jurisdiction and whether the business is deemed marital property, one spouse may be required to buy out the other’s interest or compensate them to retain control of the business.

Future ownership and operation

Divorce significantly affects the future ownership and operation of the business. There are several possible outcomes:

  • One spouse may retain full ownership and control,
  • The business may continue to be co-owned and operated
  • It may be sold with the proceeds divided

The decision largely depends on the couple’s ability to work together post-divorce, the business structure and each individual’s interest and involvement in the business.

Impact on business operations

The uncertainty and transitions associated with divorce can also impact the day-to-day operations of the business. Employee morale, vendor relationships and client trust may be affected by the perceived instability. It’s crucial for divorcing owners to maintain professionalism and communicate clearly with their staff and clients to mitigate any negative effects on the business.

Legal and financial considerations

Divorce proceedings can illuminate various legal and financial concerns related to business operations. Reassessing contracts, liabilities and debts the business holds and understanding the tax implications of asset division and ownership changes may, therefore, become necessary.

Protecting a business and both parties during divorce often requires strategic planning and negotiation. Seeking personalized legal guidance is, therefore, generally a good idea when a divorce is being initiated and a family business is in play.