by Stacy Zemon
It can happen to the best of entertainers. While a DJ business owner is putting in long hours to build a business during the week and then going to gigs on the weekend, a marriage can fray. The next thing the owner knows, his or her spouse may be filing for divorce.
This scenario is all too common. 40% to 50% of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, according to a 2010 report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. The divorce rate for second marriages is even higher.
For those whose marriage is in trouble or who are about to begin a divorce, a few strategies can help preserve a business. Once the divorce proceedings start, DJs won’t likely be able to implement some other legal maneuvers that, if accomplished in happier times, could keep their business from landing in a soon-to-be ex’s possession.
If you’re not careful in a divorce, you could find your ex is your business partner — or you could be fighting to keep your enterprise from being sold to raise cash. Or you might lose the business to your ex.
Advice to the Wise
Is your marriage headed toward a breakup? Here are seven strategies to consider if a divorce is threatened or already underway and your company is considered a joint asset.
1. Maintain good records, and keep the family’s finances separate from those of the business. Don’t borrow out of the house [account] to buy company vehicles.
2. Pay yourself a good salary. If you starve the family’s cash flow to build the business, a lawyer might later make the case that your ex is entitled to more of the company’s assets.
3. Carefully consider whether or not your spouse should be involved in your business. The more prominent the ex’s role and the longer he or she worked in the business, the stronger the case a lawyer could make that this spouse helped build the enterprise and should profit from its growth.
4. Sacrifice other assets. In a divorce settlement, a couple’s total assets are added up and then divided. Try to retain 100% ownership of the business by forfeiting other assets instead, such as retirement accounts, the family’s home, vehicles or collectibles.
5. Get a fair valuation. Use a neutral, court-appointed valuation professional and then arrange for another outside party to review the figure before you agree to it.
6. Arrange to make any payments over time. It’s common to pay an ex for a share of a business gradually. The monthly payments can come from the business’s cash flow or a bank loan.
7. Raise capital by selling a stake. You could sell a minority stake in your business to employees through an employee stock ownership plan or find an angel investor or two who will pay cash in exchange for an ownership stake.
Some Preventive Measures
Take action while your relationship is still rosy and you may greatly increase your odds of surviving a divorce with your business intact.
Here are five pre-emptive strategies that can help protect you from losing your business in a divorce.
1. Sign a prenup. If your business existed before you wed, designate it as separate property owned by only you.
2. Secure an early postnup. This is much like a prenup, except the agreement is signed after the wedding. If a postnup is done long before the marriage disintegrates — ideally more than seven years before a breakup – it might be useful in defining a business as separate property. But judges often view postnups skeptically.
3. Place the business in a trust. This keeps the business from being counted as a marital asset as you no longer personally own it. The move also protects the value of the company’s growth.
4. Create a buy-sell agreement. It defines what happens to a business should any owner’s status change, as is the case in a divorce. The agreement might limit a spouse’s ability to acquire ownership, deprive a divorcing spouse of voting rights, or give you or other partners the right to buy at a low, preset price any interest awarded the ex.
5. Have insurance. A whole-life insurance policy that builds cash value can be liquidated to provide the funds to buy out a spouse’s share of the business, if need be.
One bright spot for mobile entertainers: It’s rare that a business ends up being sold off to satisfy a divorce settlement. That’s because it would deprive the business owner of the future income needed to pay support payments. Hopefully you’ll never have to use the advice in this article; however, isn’t it comforting to know what “moves to make” just in case you do?
Stacy Zemon – Publisher and Chief Scribe
Stacy’s work as a Writer, Author and Publisher have enabled her to spawn the largest number of DJ business owners in the world!
Stacy is also the Founder & President of DJ Video Network – Internet TV for DJs, by DJs.
Her mission is to provide educational resources for DJs that support their professional growth and financial prosperity.
Write to her c/o Stacy@ProMobileDJ.com or call 877-442-7170.
For the longer version of Stacy’s story, click here. To learn about the business services she provides for other DJs, click here.