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Board Certified Family/Divorce Law Specialist
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Property division is complex when one spouse owns a business

When you and your spouse married, you may have known little about his or her business. However, you took a keen interest and learned whatever you could, even if only to participate in conversations at the dinner table. Throughout your marriage, your spouse's business may have been the primary means of support for your family. Now that you are approaching divorce, you may wonder how that business and its appreciation will play out in property division.

Your spouse may indicate that the business is not on the table. However, the law may say otherwise. Unless your spouse took careful precautions to protect the business from asset division, you may have a right to your fair share of its worth

Did your spouse keep it separate?

If your spouse did not ask you to sign a prenuptial agreement, he or she missed an important opportunity to keep the Texas divorce court from seeing the business as marital property. With a prenuptial agreement, many business owners define the ownership of their companies as separate from joint assets. Even if your spouse began the business before your marriage, you may be entitled to half of its appreciation since your wedding day unless a premarital contract stipulates otherwise.

Additionally, if you contributed in any way to the business, you may have earned a share in its profits. For example, if you can demonstrate that you helped with bookkeeping on the weekends, filled in for absent employees or contributed financially to the company's success, your chances of benefiting from it during asset division improve. If your spouse failed to keep your personal finances separate from the business records, you may have a case for claiming the business is also marital property.

What's it worth?

It is possible that your motives in seeking a share of the business in property division are simply to obtain your fair half so that you can build a new life after your divorce. You may not intend to see the business sold and your spouse's business closed in order to accomplish that.

If this is the case, you may be able to negotiate with other assets. For example, in exchange for your share in the business, you may accept cash or some other asset of a similar value. In either case, you and your spouse will have to come to an agreement about the value of the business. You can do this privately together or hire professional valuators, but the advice of an attorney will help ensure you receive your fair portion of marital property.

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