You make a mental note to yourself: Next time you fall in love, choose someone who does not own their own business. Fed up with playing second fiddle to your spouse’s company, you decide to divorce. Does this mean you will be entitled to a portion of their business?
What does the law say?
Under Massachusetts law, anything acquired during a marriage is marital property and must be split equitably during a divorce. That means fairly, not necessarily equally, however.
If your spouse owned the business before your marriage and you signed a prenuptial agreement limiting your entitlement, things should be pretty clear. Additionally, if your partner created the company while you were married but you signed a postnuptial waiving your rights to it, there is not much to debate.
If you did not sign away your rights before or during your marriage, then you may have a verifiable stake in the business. You might be tempted to try to claim half of the business in your divorce, but be careful; ending your marriage and still being tied to your former spouse as shareholders is not a clean break and can lead to further conflict.
How can I measure my stake in the business?
When it comes time to divide assets, you need to ensure the business is professionally valued, along with all of the other assets in your marriage. Once the value has been established, you should have a stronger basis for negotiating.
If you are uninterested in owning any part of the business, you could allow your partner to keep the business intact in exchange for taking possession of other marital assets with a similar value. If they do not own the business outright, such as in a partnership or corporation, you would be entitled to a portion of their share, not the overall company value.
When it comes time to divide assets, keep in mind that the survival and success of your partner’s business may be directly tied to their ability to provide for your children, as well as pay spousal support. Seek legal help to understand the best way to proceed when considering asset division in your Massachusetts divorce.