Wisconsin | Minnesota | Illinois | California 414-253-8500

Divorce Lawyer for Business Owners in Minnesota

Divorce Lawyer for Business Owners in Minnesota

When a couple divorces in Minnesota, their debt and marital property – the property they have accumulated and shared during their marriage – is subject to property distribution. Depending on your jurisdiction, it is either split equally (community property states) or equitably (equitable distribution states). Sometimes, marital property includes a business that the couple started together or, alternatively, one spouse started either before or during the marriage and continued to grow during the marriage. The business, under these circumstances, will also likely become subject to property division unless you take steps to safeguard it.

At Heritage Law Office, our divorce attorney in Minnesota understands the blood, sweat, and tears you put into starting and developing a business. We know you don't want to compromise that hard work in any shape or form. There are steps you can take, and our divorce lawyer will explain how to protect your business during a marriage or during a divorce. Contact us through our online form or at 414-253-8500 to set up a free consultation today.

How Will a Divorce Affect My Business in Minnesota?

A divorce can affect every aspect of your life, including your business. How your business is affected will depend on a number of factors, including the law of the state that has jurisdiction. 

Some states are community property states which means that you may either have to: 

  1. split the business with your spouse, or 
  2. give your spouse other compensation equal to half of the value of the business. 

Other states use equitable distribution when dividing property. In these states, property is divided equitably or fairly between the parties. This may or may not be half of the business. Even so, it is likely you will be expected to give up at least part of the business, or its value, to your spouse. 

Following are some other factors that must be considered regardless of whether you live in a community property state or equitable distribution state.

Who Owns the Business

Did you or your spouse inherit the business from family? Is it clear that only one spouse supported and worked at the business? These are both considerations that will help determine how a business will be divided in a divorce. 

When Was the Business Started

If the business was formed prior to marriage, there are states that will maintain that it is premarital property and therefore not subject it to division. Also consider that in some states even if the business was started before marriage by one spouse, if the other spouse contributes to the business after marriage, it may be considered marital property, and therefore subject to being divided between the parties.  

When a business was started during the marriage, it will most likely be considered marital property and therefore subject to division under the rules of the state with jurisdiction.

Ways to Proactively Protect Your Business in Minnesota

Fortunately, there are ways to protect your business so that you do not lose it, or part of it, in divorce proceedings. The best way to approach business protection depends on whether or not you are contemplating marriage and want to protect your interests, or if you are already married and fear a future divorce may harm your business. 

Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements

While no one wants to go into a marriage contemplating a divorce, it really is in your best interest to plan for the “what ifs” when you have a successful business you need to protect. A prenuptial agreement will help you do just that. It is an agreement made by two engaged parties wherein they address how assets will be divided in case of divorce. You are able to state in this agreement whether the business is even considered marital property and, therefore, whether it would be subject to division. 

A postnuptial agreement operates much like a prenuptial agreement, with the only difference being that it is entered into after marriage rather than before it. 

An Agreement to Buy/Sell

A buy/sell agreement is a way to establish how your spouse's interest in the business would be determined in case of divorce. You can also specify the amount of a cash award the spouse would receive for their share of the business in the event of a divorce. This type of agreement ensures that you will be able to keep your business. 

Ways to Protect Your Business During a Divorce in Minnesota

If you have no contract, whether it's a prenup or an agreement to buy/sell, you can still take measures to protect the business. 

  1. Establish yourself as the sole owner of the business. Organizing documents should specify that the business is not transferable in the event of a divorce. To note, you may still need to provide a cash award to the non-titled spouse at the time of divorce.
  2. Keep your records. Even things like office furniture and office rent should not be paid with marital assets and maintaining records to clarify this is important.
  3. Separate finances. You should not mix business and personal expenses, and by not doing so, you can show that the business is separate. The opposite is true if you do commingle funds.
  4. Spouse as an employee. If your spouse worked at all, even if very minor, keep documents proving that the spouse was paid for their services. 

Generally, you want to maintain clear and thorough records of just about everything related to your business. 

Keep Your Business Safe: Get a Divorce Lawyer in Minnesota

Even with any of the safeguards in place, a non-titled spouse may still pose a challenge to your business. They may try to inflate their contributions or obtain an appraisal that overvalues the business. The latter, at a minimum, is why having a divorce lawyer who is resourceful and knowledgeable is key to countering these tactics. 

At Heritage Law Office, our Minnesota divorce attorney for business owners will provide you with all your legal options and help you keep your business intact. Contact us through our online form or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation today. With the right lawyer, you can walk away from your marriage with your livelihood protected and your hard work secured.

Picture Banner of Frequently Asked Questions About Article Topic: Divorce Lawyer for Business Owners in Minnesota

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is Equitable Distribution in Divorce?

Equitable distribution is a legal principle followed in some states during a divorce to fairly divide marital assets between spouses. Unlike community property states, where assets are typically divided 50/50, equitable distribution aims for a more nuanced allocation. Courts consider several factors such as the duration of the marriage, the economic condition of each spouse, and the contributions each made to the marriage, among other things.

2. How Does a Community Property State Differ from an Equitable Distribution State?

In community property states, all assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered joint property and are evenly divided upon divorce. This means each spouse gets approximately half of all assets, including businesses. Equitable distribution states, on the other hand, aim for a "fair" division, which may not necessarily mean equal. The court evaluates various factors to decide what constitutes an equitable distribution for the couple.

3. What Does "Marital Property" Include?

Marital property generally includes all assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This can include, but is not limited to, real estate, savings, retirement funds, and businesses started or grown during the marriage. Separate property—assets owned before marriage or acquired through gifts or inheritance—usually remains with the original owner, although exceptions may apply based on state laws or if separate property becomes commingled with marital assets.

4. How Can I Protect My Business Before Marriage?

One of the most effective ways to protect your business before entering into a marriage is through a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can specify that the business is separate property and not subject to division in the event of a divorce. Without such an agreement, the business could be considered marital property and, therefore, subject to division.

5. What Should I Do If I'm Already Married and Want to Protect My Business?

If you're already married, a postnuptial agreement can serve a similar purpose as a prenuptial agreement, delineating your business as separate property. Additionally, maintaining clear financial boundaries between personal and business finances can help. Keep thorough records to show that marital assets were not used in the business, which could make it more challenging for your spouse to claim a share of the business in a divorce.

Protecting a business in the event of a divorce is a complex process that varies based on jurisdiction, the nature of the business, and the specifics of your marriage. If you have further concerns, it's advisable to consult an experienced attorney to understand your options better. Contact us by either using the online form or calling us directly at 414-253-8500 to learn more.

Contact Us Today

For a comprehensive plan that will meet your needs or the needs of a loved one, contact us today. Located in Downtown Milwaukee, we serve Milwaukee County, surrounding communities, and to clients across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and California.