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In divorce, some business owners try to plead poverty

Small business remains an important part of the Virginia economy. Many households rely in large part on income generated by a business owned by one or both spouses. If successful, a business can allow a family to live a comfortable, maybe even luxurious, lifestyle.

Still, money cannot buy happiness, and many high-income marriages end in divorce. When that happens, spouses often tend to start thinking about their individual desires rather than what is best for the now-separated couple.

One instinct a business-owning spouse going through divorce may have is to protect the business from property division, even if it is marital property under the law. They may even engage in fraud, trying to make the business’ value appear much lower than it actually is.

One expert calls this phenomenon “Sudden Income Deficit Syndrome.” No matter what you call it, the other spouse could be left with a far smaller share of the marital property than he or she deserves, if the business-owning spouse successfully deceives both his or her ex and the court.

Here are some signs that your spouse’s business is worth more than he or she claims:

  • Though the business is “in trouble,” the spouse’s lifestyle has not suffered.
  • He or she pays his or her expenses through the business, so he or she can claim to have “no income.”
  • He or she is uncooperative when you and your divorce attorney ask for documents or a business valuation.

An experienced divorce attorney will be able to see through these tricks, and make sure the business receives an accurate valuation. From there, the lawyer and client will have a clearer picture of the entire marital property, and how much the client is entitled to.

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