Here’s The tough truth about getting married after already helping your spouse build his or her business.
Florida law only will divide equally the part of the business that was built while married.
This can be unfair to someone who helped build a business as a partner but not as a spouse, and then gets married later.
We helped Tiffany get a fair shake in just such a situation.
Tiffany met Bruce more than 20 years ago while working for his company’s office in Brazil. Both previously married, they began dating while she was effectively running the Brazil location for Bruce’s flagship business.
After more than five years after dating, Tiffany and Bruce married. Tiffany was in her 40s; Bruce was in his early 60s.
Bruce continued to travel for work while Tiffany settled into their St. Petersburg home.
Over time, the couple drifted apart. After eight years of marriage, Tiffany discovered that Bruce had a girlfriend. Tiffany briefly found comfort with drinking. She felt trapped. Bruce controlled the finances. A sizable portion of their wealth was established before the couple married.
Tiffany’s daughter was 19 and in college in L.A. It had been Tiffany’s lifelong goal to be able to pay for her daughter’s tuition and living expenses while she was in college. Tiffany wanted her daughter to enter the workforce educated, happy, and without any debt.
One day, Tiffany had an awakening. She realized that there was only so much life to live and she was not going to let Bruce’s indiscretions get in the way of her happiness. Tiffany gave up alcohol. She told Bruce that while she loved him, she wanted a divorce.
Bruce understood. Interestingly, both parties were comfortable continuing to work with each other after the divorce.
But while both Bruce and Tiffany were preparing to leave the divorce on good terms, there was a lot of money on the table. Hence, there were going to be intense settlement negotiations.
Tiffany’s concern was simple. She wanted a “fair shake.”
Tiffany had toiled away for Bruce for years before their marriage. She wanted fair credit for the increase in the value of his business in the period leading up to their marriage. Florida law made this goal reachable, because Tiffany was technically only entitled to half of the assets acquired during the marriage.
Tiffany also wanted to make sure that her current lifestyle was secure.
Finally, Tiffany needed to make sure that she could provide for her daughter during the next couple of years so that her daughter would finish college free of debt.
We recognized that both parties were reasonable and intelligent people. Therefore, settling before a trial was likely. We began to build Tiffany’s case.
While Tiffany had a basic understanding of the parties’ financial portfolios, she didn’t know all the details.
So first we needed a comprehensive and detailed discovery process to understand what was “on the table” for negotiation.
We needed Bruce, his accountant, and some financial institutions to provide us the financial details.
Second, we needed help to value Bruce’s business.
We retained an expert forensic accountant to help us calculate a value for Bruce’s business. We also used the forensic accountant to help us build our alimony claim.
We had two full days of negotiation within a six-week period.
After the first mediation session, we decided to have our accountant complete a different alimony analysis that would help leverage an even better deal for Tiffany.
After the second mediation session, we secured a result for Tiffany that left her extremely happy. The deal was as follows.
- Bruce had to pay a sizable down payment on a new home for Tiffany. Because the down payment was high, Tiffany had a low mortgage to deal with.
- Bruce had to pay Tiffany’s monthly expenses, which ultimately allowed Tiffany to pay for her daughter’s expenses.
- Bruce agreed to an unequal distribution of the marital assets in Tiffany’s favor — she got 65% of the marital assets; in essence, Tiffany got credit for the hard work she did for Bruce before they got married.