How might separation impact my business?

One of the first questions we are often asked by our business owner clients is what impact a separation is going to have. You spend years building an empire, whether it be large or small, and you are understandably anxious about how separation will effect what you’ve built and what the future holds.

The first step is to ensure that there can be no immediate impact on the running of your business. Any fallout from the inter-personal relationship with your former partner or spouse must be managed so that it does not impede its operational running or damage its reputation. We assess the risks with you as some urgent matters may need to be attended to, particularly if your ex has access to business accounts, important documents or the premises or staff generally.

In more severe cases where attempts to curtail damaging behaviour have been exhausted, or urgent and swift action is required, there a range of remedies available from the court. This can include restraining a person from taking certain steps which may cause loss to you or the business. In our experience, a firm approach from the start can assist in resolving such issues quickly without litigation. However, where harm to business operations is imminent, an application may need to be filed with the court without delay to protect your business and assets.

Once any urgent issues are identified and dealt with, attention can be focussed on crafting a settlement to finalise the financial aspects of your separation. Settling matters early can save on legal costs and the emotional strain associated with protracted negotiations or litigation.

An initial step towards this finality is making disclosure of your financial circumstances. In our experience, the quickest way to create tension, distrust and a sharp escalation in fees is to be opaque in the way someone discharges their duty to make full and frank disclosure. If an opposing lawyer deems that the other party is refusing to make disclosure or is not being forthcoming with the documents needed to advise their client, chances are they are advising on their end to file proceedings in the court to obtain an order for disclosure. This should be avoided as there are lengthy queues in the court and litigation can be costly. We will guide you on the necessary documents to disclose having regard to the nature of your entities and extent of your assets, liabilities, superannuation and financial resources.

It is often a good idea to involve your trusted accountant at an early stage if they were not already involved from the outset. We have had many initial meetings with clients and their financial advisors to gain clarity at the first meeting about what clients want to achieve and how value can be added to their affairs through restructuring as part of the family law process. It is also important to be across any potential taxation consequences of a proposed settlement, Division 7A issues, the structure itself (including trusts interests of the parties and associated issues), future asset protection and other such important matters.

In some cases, the accountant is also trusted by the former spouse or partner and can play a positive role in achieving a settlement sooner, such as facilitating the efficient exchange of disclosure and even in reaching agreement on a value for a business to avoid the cost of an independent valuation as part of the family law process.

Coupling anxiety about what the future holds for your business with the emotional stress of a relationship breakdown itself can take a significant toll. We take a no-nonsense and pragmatic approach to advising our clients, guiding them on the path that will best achieve their goals, protect their interests and allow them to get on with the important job of running their business or home or whatever else should be taking priority.

Contact us today for an initial consultation with Shannon Daykin, an Accredited Family Law Specialist, to discuss your business, protecting your interests and how we can assist in resolving your property settlement as efficiently as possible.

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