I act mostly for business people – entrepreneurs who have taken ideas and cultivated them into significant enterprises, and the family members who are connected with such businesses (and who have often had a part to play in the growth and development of those businesses).
Divorce and separation is tough on business:-
Day to day operations are ‘under glass’;
Decisions which were once made routinely might now involve oversight;
Plans for growth are often suspended or deferred, leaving the business vulnerable to competition, and its market share exposed;
Additional expenses are incurred as accountants are required to produce information about operational status and performance, particularly for valuation purposes; and
More income must often be drawn in order to fund separate households, and legal costs, in the post-separation period.
All of the things which have seen a business trade profitably are suddenly in question while the underlying family law dispute is resolved. The future of a business which has to that point funded the lifestyles of spouses and entire families is suddenly labouring under all of the variables above. Its future can, as a result, be as uncertain as the fate of the relationship the subject of the separation.
All the while, time resources of the key people, those actually going through family breakdown, are being diverted away from management and development of that business, and are being instead ‘spent’ on management of the family law situation. In short, it is difficult to keep one’s head clearly focussed on business when an unresolved personal dispute is demanding daily attention, emotionally and otherwise.
Not all businesses can survive this experience without protection. More than ever, therefore, businesses need shelter in family law breakdown situations.
That protection often comes in the form of recognising that litigation may not be the way forward, and that creative thinking will likely be required to avoid a business becoming hamstrung by separation and divorce. This is because, in a litigation situation, all of the ‘costs’ above are being incurred throughout a lengthy determination process, the end of which is a Court imposing a ‘clean break’ situation – one which may, in a worst case scenario, even involve the sale of the business.
This often begins with recognition by all parties that a business is central to the family dynamic, that it must continue unaffected by family changes, and that it therefore requires nurturing if the successes of the past are to continue into the future.
Often it involves a mutual acceptance that a business will not be able to endure years of litigation, due to the direct and hidden ‘costs’ involved, and the unpredictability of the possible outcomes, and that a battle in court is therefore out of the question.
Inevitably, it involves agreement that a careful and considered approach is that which will be required, for the benefit of all concerned.
This is where the ‘business’ of family law differs when businesses are involved. Having the right family lawyers involved will be vital, as the giving of shelter to a central business will likely require concerted input from family lawyers, accountants and other advisers.
The right approach in each case will differ, but chances are that, absent something unusual or urgent, it will not involve litigation.
Instead, the concepts most likely to be needed are those with ‘lower impact’:-
Engagement of experienced lawyers who can co-operate with each other, you, and your advisers, to triage problems and develop resolution options;
Alternative dispute resolution techniques such as mediation and arbitration, to see a conclusion reached without the need for a Judge to step in; and
Collaborative divorce processes in which the interests of each spouse can be isolated (including any plans as to the future of a business), and a plan developed, with the help of collaboratively trained family lawyers, to see if they can be achieved.
It is these approaches which will potentially see the breakdown of the relationship not become the breakdown of the business.
But there is also a lot that underpins these approaches, and which can help on a day to day basis.
This site is therefore intended as an aid to those in business, to help manage family law situations in a way which is conducive to, ultimately, remaining in business well after the resolution of the family breakdown.