What’s fair in divorce when your spouse owns a business?

Published By | May 31, 2021 | Divorce, Property Division |

Equitable distribution laws guide divorces in Colorado. Whether you expected a judge to make all of the decisions or you intend to sit down and negotiate with your spouse, understanding the Colorado approach to property division is crucial.

Equitable distribution rules focus on a fair outcome. What is fair depends on your family circumstances and can be drastically different from case to case. If you are the dependent spouse of someone who owns a business, what is fair when you file for divorce?

Will the business’s value affect your divorce?

The biggest question you probably have is whether or not you have a claim to the business or at least some of its value in the divorce proceedings. Everything from when your spouse started the company or how they obtained it to the way that they supported and maintained the business during the marriage will affect your rights.

If you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that declared the business separate property, you may not be able to ask for any of its value in the divorce. The same might be true if your spouse owned the business already when you married or if they inherited it directly.

However, if your spouse used marital property or income earned during the marriage to start the business or keep it running, you may have at least a partial claim to its value as marital property, especially if your unpaid work around the home allowed them to build the business.

You may want the value but not business ownership

You don’t have to want the business itself or any of its assets, like manufacturing equipment or commercial real estate, to ask for your fair share of its value in divorce. A proper business valuation can establish how much money the business represents. That figure can then influence the rest of the property division process. Even if the judge doesn’t give you partial ownership of the business, they could give you other assets worth your share of the business’s value.

The more complex the assets you need to divide in your upcoming divorce are, the harder it can be to predict the outcome. Reviewing your financial records carefully with your attorney is usually a good starting point for those facing divorce.