The Impact of Divorce on Your Business What You Need to Know

A couple with a divorce lawyer

While many people typically struggle with the idea of keeping their personal and professional lives separate, for some, it’s a walk in the park—except when they’re faced with a divorce.

As an entrepreneur, few situations can feel as haunting as holding on to your business during a divorce. Many people may not realize it until they find the two worlds colliding, but divorces do have a huge impact on your business, its ownership, and its future.

If you’re in the same boat, consider hiring a reliable law firm with both divorce and corporate lawyers. Additionally, find out as much as you can about the legal implications of divorce on your business—we’ll help you get started.

Is Your Business Your Individual Property During a Divorce, or Is It Treated as Marital Property?

In Canada, the treatment of a business as marital property during a divorce depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, its growth during the marriage, and provincial or territorial family laws. Generally, businesses acquired or established during the marriage are subject to division as marital property.

Canadian family law typically recognizes the concept of “equalization of net family property” in the event of a divorce. This means that the increase in the combined net worth of spouses during the marriage is generally subject to equal division unless there are legal agreements or exceptions in place.

For businesses, the value that may be subject to division is often the increase in the value of the business during the marriage. If one spouse owned the business before the marriage, the increase in value during the marriage might be considered marital property.

It’s important to note that the treatment of businesses in divorce cases can be complex, and legal advice is essential. Family laws can vary by province and territory in Canada, and the specific circumstances of each case play a crucial role in determining how a business is treated during divorce proceedings.

What Does the Division of Assets Look Like According to Canadian Law


A couple signing documents drawn up by a corporate lawyer     In Canada, there isn’t exactly a concept of equal distribution; instead, the focus is often on the “equalization of net family property.” Each province and territory has its own legislation governing the division of assets and liabilities in the event of a divorce or separation—for instance

Equalization of Net Family Property (ENFP) in Ontario

The Family Law Act in Ontario governs the division of property. In case of a marriage breaking down, each spouse’s net family property is calculated. The spouse with a higher net family property owes the other an equalization payment to achieve a more balanced division.

Division of Matrimonial Property in Alberta


 A couple at the office of a divorce lawyer

Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act addresses the division of property. The marital property includes assets acquired during the marriage, and its value is generally divided equally between spouses. Exemptions may apply to certain assets, such as gifts or inheritances received by one spouse.

Equal Division in British Columbia

The Family Law Act in British Columbia outlines the principles for the division of family property. Generally, family property is divided equally between spouses. Exemptions may apply to certain assets, such as pre-existing assets or gifts.

Division According to Civil Law in Quebec

Quebec operates under a civil law system, which is distinct from the common law systems in other provinces. The rules for the division of property in Quebec are based on partnership principles, and each spouse is entitled to a share of the family inheritance.

How Can You Expect Your Business to Be Divided During a Divorce

The division of a business during a divorce in Canada involves several considerations. As stated earlier, it is subject to the specific family law legislation of the province or territory where the divorce is taking place. Here is a general overview of how one might expect a business to be split or divided:

Equalization of Net Family Property (ENFP)

In many provinces, including Ontario, the principle of ENFP is applied. ENFP involves calculating each spouse’s net worth at the end of the marriage and equalizing the difference. The increase in the value of the business during the marriage may be subject to equalization.

Business Valuation

Valuation of the business is a crucial step. This may involve assessing the fair market value of the business assets and liabilities. It’s common for professionals such as business valuators or forensic accountants to be involved in determining the business’s value.

Exceptions and Exemptions

Certain provinces, like Alberta, have legislation that exempts certain assets from division, such as gifts or inheritances. Pre-existing business assets may be treated differently from those acquired or grown during the marriage.

Buyout or Co-ownership

In some cases, one spouse may buy out the other’s share of the business. Alternatively, spouses may agree to continue co-owning and operating the business post-divorce, although this arrangement can be complex.

Negotiation and Mediation

Spouses can negotiate and reach agreements on the division of assets, including business, through mediation or collaborative law. This can provide more flexibility and control over the outcome compared to litigation.

A couple with a divorce lawyer

Court Intervention

If an agreement cannot be reached, the court may make decisions on the division of assets, including the business. Courts aim for a fair and equitable division, considering factors such as each spouse’s contributions and needs.

Tax Implications

Consideration of tax implications is crucial, as the transfer of business assets may have tax consequences. Seeking advice from tax professionals is recommended to minimize tax implications.

Ongoing Business Operations

Practical considerations for the ongoing operation of the business post-divorce should be addressed, especially if spouses continue to co-own.

How Can You Ensure Proper Business Valuation

People in an office space, including a corporate lawyer

Ensuring a proper business valuation during a divorce is crucial for achieving a fair and equitable division of assets. Here are key steps to ensure an accurate business valuation

1. Engage Professional Valuators

Engage a professional business valuator with expertise in the specific industry and knowledge of Canadian valuation standards. In complex cases, consider involving forensic accountants to uncover any financial irregularities.

 2. Gather Financial Documentation

Provide accurate and up-to-date financial statements for the business. Include recent tax returns to verify financial performance. Provide a comprehensive list of business assets and liabilities.

 3. Normalization Adjustments

Identify and adjust for any one-time or non-recurring expenses or revenues that may distort the business’s true financial picture. Normalize the financial statements to reflect the business’s ongoing, sustainable performance.

 4. Consider Income and Market Approaches

Evaluate the business’s future earnings capacity, considering methods like the discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis. Compare the business to similar businesses that have been sold recently.

 5. Asset-Based Valuation

Determine the fair market value of the business’s tangible and intangible assets. Consider the book value, replacement cost, or the value derived from recent transactions of similar assets.

 6. Consider Intangible Assets

Identify and value intangible assets such as trademarks, patents, customer relationships, and goodwill. These assets can significantly contribute to the overall value of the business.

 7. Examine Earning Capacity

Assess the business’s potential to generate future income. Consider industry trends, market conditions, and the competitive landscape.

 8. Evaluate Market Conditions

Consider economic factors that may affect the business’s value, such as changes in market demand or industry regulations.

 9. Assess Management Structure

Evaluate the role of each spouse in the business and how changes in management post-divorce may impact the business.

 10. Retain Documentation

Keep a thorough record of the valuation process, including methodologies used, financial documents, and any expert opinions. This documentation can be crucial if there are disputes or if the valuation is challenged in court.

 11. Legal Advice

A family lawyer with a client


Seek legal advice from a family lawyer experienced in business valuations. Legal professionals can guide you through the process, ensuring that the valuation aligns with family law principles and local regulations.

 12. Consider Mediation or Collaboration

Explore alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or collaborative law. These approaches can provide more flexibility and control over the valuation process compared to court litigation.

 13. Regularly Update Valuation

Periodically reassess the business valuation, especially if significant changes occur in the business or economic landscape.

Pre-emptive Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Business in Case of a Divorce

Protecting a business in anticipation of a divorce involves strategic and proactive measures. Here are pre-emptive steps one can take to safeguard business interests:

1. Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements


A person signing up documents drawn up by a family lawyer

  • Draft a legally sound prenuptial or postnuptial agreement explicitly outlining how the business will be treated in case of divorce.
  • Clearly define each spouse’s rights and responsibilities regarding the business.

 2. Business Ownership Structure

  • Consider structuring the business as a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company.
  • The legal structure can impact how the business is treated during divorce proceedings.

 3. Maintain Separate Finances

  • Keep clear financial separation between personal and business finances.
  • Avoid mingling personal and business assets to prevent complications during divorce.

 4. Detailed Record-Keeping

  • Maintain meticulous records of the business’s financial transactions, contracts, and operational decisions.
  • Detailed documentation can be crucial in establishing the business’s value.

 5. Regular Business Valuations

  • Periodically conduct business valuations to assess its current worth.
  • Regular valuations can provide a basis for negotiations and help in anticipating potential issues.

 6. Appropriate Compensation Structures

  • Ensure that each spouse’s role and contribution to the business are clearly defined.
  • Establish fair and market-appropriate compensation structures to reflect contributions accurately.

 7. Buy-Sell Agreement

  • Implement a buy-sell agreement that dictates what happens to a spouse’s share of the business in case of divorce.
  • This can include rights of first refusal or a predetermined valuation method.

 8. Insurance Policies

  • Consider obtaining insurance policies, such as key person insurance or buy-sell agreement insurance, to provide funds for the buyout of a spouse’s share.

 9. Appointment of Independent Directors

  • If applicable, appoint independent directors or advisors to the board to ensure unbiased decision-making in the best interest of the business.

 10. Business Trusts

  • Explore the possibility of setting up a trust to hold and protect business assets.
  • Trusts can provide a level of separation between the business and personal assets.

 11. Preventive Legal Consultation

  • Consult with a family lawyer experienced in business matters to understand the legal landscape.
  • Obtain legal advice on how to structure agreements and operations to protect the business.

 12. Update Estate Planning Documents

  • Ensure that estate planning documents, such as wills and trusts, align with the desired distribution of business assets in case of divorce.

 13. Communication and Transparency

  • Maintain open communication with your spouse about the business and its financial aspects.
  • Transparency can foster understanding and potentially lead to more amicable resolutions.

Some Quick FAQs Related to The Impact of a Divorce on One’s Business

A pair of hands next to a wedding ring


1. If you start a business on your own without your partner, does it still get roped into the division process during a divorce?

In many cases, any increase in the value of the business during the marriage may be subject to division. The treatment may vary by province, but pre-existing assets and businesses owned before the marriage might have different considerations.

2. What if one partner isn’t as interested or invested in the business as the other?

Both spouses’ contributions to the marriage, including non-financial contributions, are considered in the division. Lack of direct involvement may still be recognized, but the overall contribution to the marriage is taken into account.

3. If you’re the non-owner spouse, can you still contest a business valuation report?

Yes, the non-owner spouse can contest a business valuation report. Seeking legal advice is crucial to understanding the options available for challenging the valuation, especially if there are concerns about accuracy or fairness.

4. What happens to a business I started during divorce proceedings but before the finalization of the divorce?

The timing of when the business was started can impact its treatment. If the business was established after the separation, but before the divorce is finalized, its status and inclusion in the division process will depend on the specific laws of the province or territory and the circumstances surrounding the separation. Legal advice is recommended to help you to understand the implications.

Not sure where to find legal advice you can rely on? We suggest reaching out to our team at Nanda & Associate Lawyers. As a leading law firm, we offer family lawyers and business lawyers in Brampton and surrounding areas that can help you protect your business in case of a divorce.

Get in touch for more information.



Disclaimer: This article is only intended for educational purposes and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for legal advice.

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