Couples with significant assets often find themselves fighting intensely during divorce proceedings over the most valuable assets. In many households, the most sought-after possessions will be the family home or a retirement account.
However, if your spouse runs a small business or has a professional practice, that company might actually be one of the most substantial assets the two of you own. If the company is in your spouse’s name and you don’t have a formal ownership stake in the business, is it still possible for you to claim some of its value in your divorce proceedings?
Claiming a business as marital property in Missouri
In Missouri, the judges who preside over family law matters like divorces have to carefully follow state laws. When it comes to dividing your marital property, they should focus on what is fair based on your family circumstances.
The judge has the authority to divide your marital possessions and debts to make things reasonably fair for both of you. Determining what is marital property and what is separate property owned solely by one spouse is an important step in planning for a divorce. Many times, a business is at least partially marital property because marital assets go into its creation or maintenance.
You don’t have to be on the paperwork to have an interest in the company
While your spouse may be the one on the formal paperwork establishing the business entity and the one who runs the company, the chances are good that they have used income earned during the marriage or assets that constitute marital property to help establish or build up their business.
Especially in circumstances where a spouse performs unpaid work at the company, supports their partner while they start the business or agrees to funnel household assets and income toward the developing business, the courts may agree that at least a portion of the business’s value belongs to the spouse without an ownership interest.
Dividing a business or professional practice is difficult, which is why you probably want to discuss your desire for a share of the company’s value with a lawyer early in the divorce process.