For those with significant assets, protecting those assets is a priority during a divorce. Few personal possessions are as valuable or as meaningful as a small business or a professional practice. Whether you started the company or inherited it, it likely has a lot of personal meaning to you and also represents a substantial value to you and your financial future.
Prior to your marriage or in anticipation of a potential divorce in Virginia, talk with your lawyer about various options that may be available to protect your business assets. Here are a couple ideas to think about.
Can I establish my business as separate property?
Virginia’s equitable distribution law makes all of your shared or marital assets vulnerable to division. You may be able to protect your company from claims by your spouse during a divorce by showing that it is your separate property. However, this would have to be done well ahead of time.
Assets you inherited, owned before marriage or purchased with income earned before marriage may remain separate property. You can also designate assets as separate property in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If you have a clear paper trail showing that the business is and has always been solely yours, you may not have to divide it in a subsequent divorce.
Negotiate with your spouse to retain control
If you have to go to court in a litigated divorce, the Virginia family law judge will be the one who decides if you split the ownership of the business with your spouse. Your attorney can work with you to help negotiate a property division agreement outside of court, allowing you to set those terms yourself. You may be able to make certain concessions to motivate your spouse to let you keep the company.
Don’t wait until it is too late to preserve your business assets from a potential divorce. Even if you think your marriage will last forever, unforeseen circumstances can change your life plan.