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Family Law
Family Law

Divorce Lawyers For Business Owners In California

Our Newport Beach Divorce Attorneys Understand the Needs of Business Owners in a Divorce

As an entrepreneur, navigating a divorce can present intricate challenges regarding business ownership and assets. California’s community property laws factor in, yet applying them to an early-stage business demands a profound grasp of its setup and your spouse’s role. Your business might be viewed as community property, entirely yours, or subject to division in the divorce.

However, divorcing involves more than safeguarding your business. Asset division, spousal support, child maintenance, and custody rights are all critical considerations. For entrepreneurs, handling these matters with precision is paramount. A robust divorce strategy addresses all pertinent issues concurrently to effectively protect your business and interests. Don’t jeopardize the business that you’ve worked so hard to build, contact Sullivan Law & Associates to speak with our experienced divorce lawyers for business owners in Newport Beach.

divorce lawyers for business owners in California

Safeguarding Your Business and Other Interests Amidst Divorce

When safeguarding your business, various factors require consideration. Our Newport Beach divorce lawyers for business owners have supported numerous entrepreneurs through divorce proceedings, offering specialized expertise in addressing key issues such as:

  • Valuing Early-Stage Businesses for Divorce – Determining the value of a business in a divorce differs from other scenarios. Our specialized divorce attorneys for business owners in California can assist in obtaining an accurate valuation tailored to your advantage.
  • Assessing Separate or Community Property Status of Privately Held Businesses – While the inception date of your business is crucial in divorce evaluations, it’s not the sole consideration. We ensure your business is protected appropriately and explore options to safeguard any entitled interests.
  • Managing Intellectual Property (IP) and Business Assets – Separate handling of personal IP and business assets from the business itself is vital in divorce proceedings. Our legal team secures your essential assets for business growth.
  • Negotiating Sole Ownership of Privately-Held Businesses – Entrepreneurs benefit from negotiating sole ownership. Leveraging our expertise in high-asset divorce cases, we employ strategic approaches to achieve favorable outcomes.
  • Business Ownership’s Impact on Alimony, Child Support, and Custody – Business ownership can influence alimony, child support, and custody determinations. Our dedicated counsel collaborates with you to pursue the best possible results tailored to your unique circumstances.

How Divorce Can Affect Businesses in California

A divorce can significantly affect every aspect of your life, including your business. The impact on your business will depend on various factors, such as the laws of the state where you reside. In states referred to as community property states, you may be obligated to:

  1. Divide the business with your spouse, or
  2. Provide your spouse with alternative compensation equivalent to half the business’s value.

Other states utilize equitable distribution when dividing property. In such states, property is allocated fairly between the parties, which may not necessarily mean an equal split. However, you will likely need to relinquish a portion of the business or its value to your spouse. Below are some additional factors to consider, regardless of whether you reside in a community property state or an equitable distribution state.

Who Owns the Business

Was the business inherited by you or your spouse from family? Is it evident that only one spouse provided support and worked in the business? These factors play a crucial role in determining how business assets will be divided during a divorce.

When Was the Business Started

If a business was established before marriage, certain states may classify it as premarital property, exempting it from division. Yet, in some states, if one spouse initiated the business pre-marriage and the other contributed post-marriage, it might be viewed as marital property, thus divisible.

Conversely, if the business was founded during the marriage, it typically falls under marital property, subject to division based on the state’s jurisdiction.

How To Proactively Protect Your Business In Case Of Divorce

Thankfully, strategies exist to safeguard your business from being lost, wholly or partially, during divorce proceedings. The approach to protecting your business depends on whether you are considering marriage and seeking to safeguard your interests, or if you are already married and concerned that a potential divorce could impact your business adversely.

Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements

While entering a marriage with thoughts of divorce is undesirable, planning for contingencies is crucial when safeguarding a thriving business. A prenuptial agreement facilitates this by outlining asset division in the event of a divorce. This agreement enables couples to specify whether the business qualifies as marital property and its division terms. Similarly, a postnuptial agreement, though arranged after marriage, functions similarly to a prenuptial agreement.

An Agreement to Buy/Sell

A buy/sell agreement outlines the process for valuing your spouse’s business stake in the event of a divorce. It allows you to define the cash payout your spouse would get for their ownership share upon divorce, securing the continuity of your business.

How To Protect Your Business During a Divorce

Even without a formal contract like a prenup or a buy/sell agreement, there are steps you can take to safeguard the business.

  1. Establish ownership: Ensure clear documentation designates you as the sole proprietor, stipulating non-transferability in case of divorce. Note that a monetary settlement may still be required for the non-titled spouse during divorce proceedings.
  2. Maintain meticulous business records: Avoid using joint assets for business expenses, including office supplies and rent. Keeping detailed records is crucial to delineate personal and business expenditures.
  3. Segregate financials: Differentiate between personal and business finances to demonstrate the autonomy of your business. Mixing funds can blur this distinction.
  4. Employ spouse as staff: If your spouse provided any services, no matter how minimal, maintain records of their compensation to validate their employment status.

Divorce For Executives In California

Executives navigating a divorce in California may encounter distinct challenges. Their benefit packages, comprising both qualified and non-qualified benefits, demand precise assessment during divorce proceedings. Occasionally, seemingly insignificant benefits like underwater stock options can prove intricate. It is paramount to enlist the expertise of a seasoned attorney well-versed in managing these intricacies efficiently.

Corporations remunerate their executives through diverse channels, complicating the evaluation of compensation packages. This intricacy can impact alimony payments and the distribution of marital assets. Below are examples of executive compensation:

  • Stock Options
  • Restricted Stock Units
  • Profit units
  • Phantom stock
  • Performance units
  • Retention bonuses
  • Employment contracts
  • Key man life insurance
  • Preferred rate/loans
  • Non-qualified deferred compensation
  • Deferred savings plans
  • Retirement plans
  • 401k matching
  • Elective deferral programs
  • Deferred compensation programs

If any of these benefits are gained and earned during the marriage, they become community property to be fairly divided. Disputes often arise over the timing of asset acquisition. When a benefit is only partly owned or vested at the time of separation, determining ownership involves dividing it between community property and the employed spouse’s separate property.

When a spouse’s employer is being sold or has already been sold, additional factors come into play. These may involve non-compete agreements, change of control bonuses, performance bonuses, and post-sale employment agreements.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How is a Business Valued in a California Divorce?

In a divorce, a forensic accountant’s valuation of a business is crucial, often based on investment value. Common methods like Capitalization of Earnings and Capitalization of Excess Earnings are used in Orange County family law courts to determine the revenue attributable to the owner spouse’s services versus the business itself.

Unlike a sale valuation using Discounted Cash Flow, family law courts focus on past financial performance rather than future revenue. The ongoing value of the business as an investment is key since it won’t be sold, avoiding capital gains tax, commissions, and other sale-related costs. Experts typically analyze the business’s financial performance over the past five years, omitting non-recurring events for accuracy.

When is a Business Valued in a California Divorce?

A business is typically valued close to the settlement or trial date. However, there are exceptions. In some cases, valuation can happen at the separation date or other practical alternate dates. This approach is often used for businesses where the operator-spouse drives most of the revenue, like solo practice professionals.

The separation date valuation is based on the principle that post-separation earnings belong to the individual. If post-separation business earnings are tied to the efforts of the owner-operator spouse, they are considered separate property. Additionally, a business may be valued at the separation date if an intentional or grossly negligent act by the operator-spouse caused a decrease in business value post-separation.

Who Receives the Business in an Orange County Divorce?

If a business is considered community property and there are no exceptional circumstances, it is usually granted to the spouse who actively runs it. In cases where both spouses are involved in the business and both want ownership, it generally goes to the spouse most crucial for the business’s ongoing success.

Orange County family law courts seldom award joint ownership of a business to divorced parties to avoid potential future disputes. If both parties wish to co-own the business post-divorce, the court will accommodate. If the business is one spouse’s separate property, it goes to that spouse. Regardless of whether the business is separate or community property, Orange County family law courts rarely order the sale of a business.

Protect Your Business With The Top Divorce Lawyers in Orange County

Despite having safeguards in place, a spouse without a title could still present challenges to your business. They might exaggerate their contributions or seek an appraisal that inflates the business’s value. This underscores the importance of having a divorce attorney who is both resourceful and well-versed in countering such tactics.

At Sullivan Law & Associates, our team of divorce lawyers specializing in cases involving business owners in Newport Beach is dedicated to presenting you with all your legal options. We aim to help you safeguard your business interests effectively. Schedule a consultation today by calling 949-590-8100. With the right legal support, you can exit your marriage with your livelihood protected and your hard-earned efforts secured.