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Chicago divorce lawyerThe division of property and liabilities is often a complicated and contentious aspect of the divorce process. When spouses own a small business, the issue of property distribution is even more complex. If you or your spouse own a business or you jointly own a family business, you may be unsure of how to handle the business during the divorce. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to business owner concerns during divorce. The way you handle ownership of the business will depend on your specific needs, financial resources, and long-term goals. When deciding how to proceed, consider the following questions.

Who Has Ownership Rights to the Business?

Per Illinois law, marital property is property accumulated during the marriage. However, determining the identity of your business as marital or non-marital is not as straightforward as you may think. If a spouse owns the business before getting married, it is usually considered non-marital property. However, if the other spouse contributed time or resources to the betterment of the business, the business may be considered partially or fully marital.

How Much is the Business Worth?

Whether you decide to do with the business, you will need to know the business’s value. There are several ways to value a small business, but many people use the business’s fair market value to inform the property division process. This is the price a buyer would pay for the business. It is recommended that business owners have their business professionally valued in a divorce. You and your spouse may choose to use the same business appraiser or separate appraisers depending on your particular situation.

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Chicago divorce attorneyIf you have a dog, cat, horse, bird, or another pet, you most likely do not think of your pet as mere property. You may even consider your pet part of the family. However, under Illinois divorce law, pets are classified as property and subject to the same asset division laws as vehicles, bank accounts, and other types of property. Fortunately, the law was updated in 2018 to reflect the fact that pets are more than mere possessions.

What Happens if Divorcing Spouses Disagree About Pet Ownership?

Understandably, many people have strong feelings about their pets. This can make deciding who should keep the pet after a divorce extremely difficult. Spouses are encouraged to negotiate a property division arrangement that works for them. However, property division concerns are not always able to be resolved out of court. If a divorcing couple cannot reach an agreement on pet ownership, the court may need to make a decision on the spouses’ behalf.

Per Illinois law, property that was obtained by either spouse during the marriage is marital property. Property that a spouse owned before the marriage is non-marital property and belongs solely to that spouse in the event of divorce. If you got your pet during the marriage, both spouses have a right to the pet. If a spouse owned the pet before the marriage, it may be considered non-marital property. However, if both spouses cared for the pet and paid for pet supplies and veterinary care, the pet may be considered marital property regardless of who first acquired the pet.

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