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Divorce Advice for Spouses of Professionals and Business Owners

Valuation of the Business
An important step in any divorce situation involving a practice or business that has significant value is to have it valuated by a business professional. In most cases the spouse with the practice / business will attempt to devaluate the businesses assets, clients, cash flow, goodwill, and potential for economic growth. It is important that you not settle for the estimated amounts provided by the other spouse and to insist an evaluation be performed on the business to determine an accurate reflection of the operations value. If an evaluation is not performed then you may lose potential claims to alimony, equitable division of the operation, and other assets which you may be entitled to after the divorce. An evaluator will have the ability to acquire all necessary documents from the business and may testify on your behalf in court to ensure that the business is equitably settled at trial.  In most cases your attorney will be able to refer you to a reputable business evaluator to determine the operations actual worth.

How does a Professional Practice Partnership Affect My Divorce?
If your spouse is involved in a professional practice partnership then it is completely necessary to have a business evaluator determine your spouse’s interest in the partnership. During the divorce the court will only evaluate your spouse’s investment in the partnership. However, it may be necessary for both partners to furnish business documents to properly evaluate the practice/ business. In most cases a business partner will be reluctant to hand over their personal business documents when they are a non- party to your divorce case. Both your attorney and the business evaluator will be granted the authority to retain these documents to ensure that the accurate value of the business is reported back to the court.

Dependence on Spouses Income from the Business
In most cases the non- working or supportive spouse will be dependent on the business and practice for their income. If this is the case then the supportive spouse usually worries about how they will be able to support themselves during their divorce proceedings. In some cases the parties can negotiate on who will continue paying which bills and expenses, including support, until the resolution of a Divorce Decree. However, in some cases the parties cannot agree and the conflict of these matters makes it impossible to reach a resolution. In such cases where no resolution can be reached then the judge may issue a temporary hearing to determine how marital expenses will be paid and to set a temporary support for the duration of the divorce case—including alimony and child support. In the final divorce decree the judge will be able to modify any support or alimony on a more permanent basis; generally until the non-working spouse is able to support themselves or until the non-working spouse remarries.

Will I have to Go to Court?
In most cases divorces are settled through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This means that the vast majority of divorce cases will never go to a final hearing and are usually settled through processes such as mediation. There is a chance that you may have to go to trial if you file for divorce and are unable to reach an amicable resolution outside of court. Both attorneys on either side will encourage the parties to resolve the issues outside of court; however, in cases that involve businesses/ practices it may be less likely that the other party will be willing to negotiate equitable division.

How Long Will the Divorce Process Take?
The length of your divorce case is dependent on a variety of factors that should be discussed with your attorney. Realistically your divorce process can take anywhere from a couple of months to 2-3 years. It should be anticipated that your case will take longer if it is contested, involves complex issues, or involves children. Depending upon your state and the type of divorce filed there may also be waiting period that may extend the length of the divorce. Lastly, the state guidelines for residence establishment may also determine the length of your divorce case. Your attorney may give you a relative guideline of how long your particular divorce case may take – however this is an estimate and if the facts of your case evolve into more complex issues then your case may take longer than previously estimated.

How Much Will this Cost in Attorney Fees?
Overall attorney’s fees will generally be more costly for high profile cases/ cases that involve businesses/ practices. Your estimated attorney’s fees can be discussed in the initial consultation of your case. It may also be possible for your estimated attorney fees to be reduced if you are able to do some of your own legal legwork. Your overall cost in attorney’s fees may also be dependent on the amount of hours dedicated to developing your case and the paperwork/ petitions necessary in your case. Most attorneys have set retainer fees to be paid in full upfront for your case. Most retainer fees are non-negotiable so it is advisable to seek a legal counsel that will be able to receive the amount you can provide for an initial retainer.

If you have a high profile divorce case involving a practice/ business then you should contact one of our experienced attorneys at Coleman Legal Group LLC today by calling 770-609-1247.  Our legal representatives have experience in high profile divorce as well as business and finance law.  Call today to schedule a legal consultation or to discuss your case with one of our reputable attorneys.