It’s very important, especially in a situation where a spouse has not been involved in the operation of the business, that they first make sure that they have all the information as to what they have in terms of assets. We do a lot of discovery and request for production of documents; we will hire forensic accountants, business appraisers, and other experts to come in and take a look at the operation of the family business.
In many cases, it is literally hiring somebody to go to that business, sit down with the other side, and have them explain how the business operates, look at the profit law statements, look at their tax returns, look at their cash flow, their receivables, and their cash payables.
Even though you hire a divorce attorney, often they are really on the job of assessing how somebody runs a business, and whether or not it is easy to ascertain value. The other thing you have to do is to make sure that you understand what you’re trying to get. Realistically, if you have a spouse that has not been very involved in the business, then they are not going to be very involved in the business post-divorce. You’re not going to get them a percentage of ownership in the business, you’re typically going to get them some value or even other assets or get them cashed out.
So, you end up in a situation where you’re not only doing a divorce decree, you may have to do a new partnership agreement. You may have to go in and change by-laws in a corporate document because they’re incorporated. You may have businesses that are all through trust, you may have to go in and change trust documents, and in those cases a lot of times we are bringing in other attorneys that have expertise in those areas that can help us with reorganization of the business as part of the divorce process.