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Businesses may be seen as marital property in a divorce

Couples get married with two expectations. The first is that they will be together forever. The second is that breaking up would be a very difficult process. Everything must get divided, from shared houses to the custody of children. One matter that may be especially contentious and complicated is sharing a business interest.

If you and your spouse own all or part of a business, it is treated the same as other assets or property. The same factors enter into a judge's decision in a divorce hearing or a lawyer's recommendation during a negotiation. A business interest may be ruled as separate, community or commingled property under California law.

Community property is ruled as co-owned by spouses; this would be a common ruling if a couple bought or acquired an interest while they were married, and they had a roughly equal role in the decision and the purchase. Separate property is a more likely ruling if one spouse owned the interest before the marriage or one spouse agrees he or she had no role and has no claim to it.

Commingled property is more complicated because it applies to part separated and part community property. This may happen if one spouse owned a business before the wedding and either sold or exchanged it for a new asset during the marriage.

An attorney can help sort out the specifics of splitting or claiming a business during a divorce. Legal representation can reduce the need to lodge a dispute with a spouse over a business interest and increase the chances of a problematic divorce.

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