Running your own business or starting your own professional practice involves risk, hard work, commitment and investment. No matter how smart or skilled you are, the potential for failure may be ever-present, especially during the first few years. Once you have an established customer or client base, your business may begin to flourish and even grow.

It is natural to feel protective of something that you have built from the ground up and developed into something that is capable of supporting your entire family. Unfortunately, as you consider divorce, your ex could potentially have an interest in your business or professional practice, as it may be the most substantial asset other than your home and retirement account.

Whether or not you will wind up splitting the ownership of your business in the property division process will vary based on a number of factors.

When did you start the company or practice?

The date that you began your business will have an impact on how the courts perceive it. Specifically, the courts will want to know whether you used personal assets or marital assets to invest in the business initially.

While you may have only used your income, if you earned that income during your marriage, the courts will likely view it as the partial property of your spouse as well. Even if you started the business well before you got married, if you continued to invest in the company throughout your marriage or if you didn’t keep the accounts fully separate from household accounts, your spouse could potentially have a claim to some of the value of the business.

Can you potentially negotiate with your ex about the business?

Even if the business is lucrative, your ex may not want to remain involved in it so much as they want a portion of the value it represents. If you have to go to court and let a Florida family law judge make the decision, they could potentially allocate partial ownership interest to your ex or even order you to pay ongoing alimony as a means of addressing your business or professional practice in the property division process.

If you can set your own terms and file an uncontested divorce, you will have more control over the management of the business. Your spouse may happily let go of any claims to ownership or ongoing income from the business if you agree to compromise in other areas or with other valuable assets.

In some cases, if you worry about your marriage and your business but aren’t ready to file for divorce, you could potentially negotiate a postnuptial agreement with your spouse that makes your business your sole and separate property while making concessions that your spouse wants as well. This will then allow for you to file a faster, uncontested divorce if you aren’t able to work out your issues.