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Family law: Protecting a business in the event of divorce

When a couple marries, neither spouse thinks divorce will ever happen to them. Unfortunately, many couples do find themselves dealing with the end of their relationship at some point and turn to a family law attorney to help them with the difficult process of untangling all aspects of their marriage. Divorcing Washington couples who own or co-own a business have even more to think about while they work through the divorce process. While divorce can negatively impact a business in many ways, married business owners can protect their business by understanding these impacts and preparing as much as possible.

Many divorcing business owners find their and their employees' day-to-day business operations are disrupted. They often must find time for court appearances, deal with correspondence with lawyers and business appraisers and comply with requests for documentation. Business owners may also need to consider how interest in the business will be divided in the event of divorce and the potential impact this division will have on partners and/or employees. Sometimes, divorcing business owners agree or are forced to dissolve the business, or the disruption to their business leads to bad press that damages their brand reputation.

Experts say the most effective way business owners can protect their business in the event of divorce is to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, which clarifies details about the distribution of a business and so minimizes conflict during negotiations. People can choose to include, for example, details such as methodology by which the business would be valued at the time of divorce and whether a spouse will share in the appreciation or depreciation of a business established prior to the marriage. Business owners should also keep in mind other ways they can lessen the impact of divorce on their business, such as keeping business and personal expenses separate and paying themselves and their spouse a fair market salary to avoid complications later.

Any Washington resident who has been or is in the process of divorce can attest to the challenges it presents. Those couples who also have a business to consider may have more potential stressors, but they can help themselves by being prepared as much as possible. Many divorcing people find having an experienced family law attorney on their side helps them a great deal when making such difficult decisions.

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