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What happens to the family business when the owners divorce?

Florida couples may have spent years or even decades growing a profitable and successful small business together. However, even couples who work together as business partners may find one day that their marriage is unraveling and will decide it is in their best interests to divorce. One complex aspect of a high net worth divorce for these couples is what to do with the family business now that their marriage has come to an end.

One option is for one spouse to keep the family business in the property division process. The spouse keeping the business will buy out their ex’s share in the business. The buyout price will be based on the appraised value of the business. An advantage to this is that because the buy-out is incident to divorce, it may be the case in most circumstances that taxes won’t be owed on the transfer. In addition, the spouses will no longer be tied together by the business, allowing for a clean break and a fresh start post-divorce.

Sometimes, however, neither spouse wants to let go of the family business. There is always the option that both spouses will retain ownership of the family business. This requires a lot of cooperation, and it means the spouses will remain tied together even after the divorce is final. For those whose divorce is amicable, this may be a workable solution.

Finally, both spouses may decide that they want to leave the family business, and the business will be sold. Selling the business lets each partner forge a new path in life independent of their ex, such as getting a new job, starting a new business or entering into retirement. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that due to the time it can take to sell a business, it could make the divorce process last longer.

Ultimately, couples pursuing a divorce who own a business together will have to make careful decisions regarding the family business. If one or both spouses want to keep the business, they will have to do what is necessary to preserve the business’ continuity and if they decide to sell it, they will have to agree on a sale price. When it comes to high-value assets, such as a business, the property division process can be complex. Family law attorneys experienced in high net worth divorces may be a useful resource in such situations.