Divorce Issues Facing Women Business Owners

Divorce Issues Facing Women Business Owners

Women business owners rock. I just spent a weekend at a retreat with twenty amazing women and it reminded be why I love working with these types of women in their divorces. Talk about multitaskers! How do we manage to do it all day in and day out? When do divorcing women fit in time to freak-out, grieve, cry, gather all their financial records for their lawyer, talk to their CPA, and them pull it together to drive the carpool right before jumping on a client call?  And that’s just one afternoon.

Sound familiar? What exactly do women business owners need as they head into a divorce?

If you are facing a divorce, you simply don’t have time or energy to attend endless meetings. You need to find a team who will efficiently educate you on the law and provide you with realistic expectations, and then usher you though the overwhelming legal process.

Women business owners have unique issues – they are often the primary parents for the kids and typically handle the family finances. They travel. They juggle school conferences, client meetings, and make it to the grocery store before another round of evening carpools. They manage business and marketing meetings, and then get the dog to the vet. And if they’re lucky (and very organized) they may even have time for a regular work out.

So, where do they find the time to deal with the realities of their divorce?  

This is why women business owners who are divorcing need a legal team who is readily available and quickly responsive.

The most commonly asked financial questions I get from divorcing women business owners are: Will my business be valued? And will I have to pay spousal maintenance?

If your business is creating revenue over and above what one might receive as a professional in your area of expertise, it may have value, and a business valuation will likely be necessary.

Or perhaps you have an excellent reputation in your community and have an expectation of continued public patronage. That too may necessitate a business valuation.

Here’s an example: Say you are a CPA and your business is a one person office with an assistant or two. If your income is basically a salary that is within the range of other CPAs in your area, the business itself may not have significant value, however if you have a strong reputation in the community, it may well be that there is value in the business based on your professional “goodwill.”

If you have several other CPAs working for you, and a portion of your income is due to the profit you receive from the revenue produced by your employees, your business is likely to have additional value and a business valuation is probably in your future.

The most important thing to know if you find yourself facing a business valuation is to be sure you have a lawyer who has experience in representing business owners in a divorce. And the next most important thing is to find someone you have chemistry with, someone who you feel you can relate to, and who will be available even after hours. (Because divorce issues don’t just pop up on weekdays and between nine and five). Business valuations are intense and often scary. You need a highly organized legal team who has your back.

The question of spousal maintenance is complicated and there are as many answers as there are judges. In Washington State, spousal maintenance is primarily based on the need of the recipient and the ability of the payer to pay. As you can see, this leaves lots of room for interpretation. Not that you ever want to end up in trial, but it’s very helpful if your lawyer has litigated spousal maintenance issues – she’ll know how a judge might evaluate both sides’ positions. Most cases settle out of court, especially if you have a lawyer who can evaluate your risk of ending up with a spousal maintenance award.

You had what it takes to build a business. You certainly have what it takes to make it through the vagaries of the divorce process.  You just need some really good support and innovative legal thinking, so you can go back to focusing on what you’re good at and what you love