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It’s challenging to go through a separation or divorce no matter what your circumstances. When one or both of the people involved in the divorce own, operate, or hold shares in a business, their divorce can affect a much wider circle of people – bringing additional challenges and complications to the process.
It’s certainly possible for couples to divorce in a way that protects their businesses as well as their personal assets, and it has to start with both sides having good information about the business or businesses in question.
In Alberta, regardless of which legal route you’re taking to settle your divorce, you’ll need to have data and information ready about any businesses you’re involved with. You’ll be expected to provide the most recent three to five years of financial statements and tax returns, as well as a detailed breakdown of income and expenses for the business. This includes income, bonuses, or dividends you and your spouse might have received from the business in the last three to five years.
There are also certain tax rules to be aware of as you start the separation or divorce process – including rules that afford you and your spouse certain tax advantages as you go through the process, and how to best time certain actions to qualify for those.
Though it’s prudent for you to do some research on your own, it can save you time, money, and energy in the long run, to assemble a team that will help you through the transition. In a best-case scenario, you’ll already have a lawyer representing your business, and an accountant who’s either on your business team or whom you’ve retained to help you handle necessary filings. Those professionals can help you find a family law lawyer – specifically, one who is experienced in helping clients protect both business and personal assets.
It’s likely you already have a lawyer and accountant handling legal and financial matters at your business, and if you don’t, your family law lawyer can help you find a business lawyer and accountant who can help guide your business through the divorce.
If you and your spouse are in business with each other, a skilled family law lawyer can help you negotiate what happens to the business, whether one person plans to buy the other out or both spouses plan to run the business together, after the divorce.
In cases where you and your spouse are in business together as part of a larger ownership group – and if those who own the business have entered into a Unanimous Shareholders’ Agreement – it’s important to have both a knowledgeable family law lawyer and an experienced business lawyer to help you determine your options.
Divorce is definitely a time of change for couples and the businesses they own, and it doesn’t have to destroy finances or businesses. With the right team in place looking after you and your business’ interests, you can move past the divorce with a better understanding of where you’re at and where you’re going.