Are business holdings considered marital property in divorce?

| Nov 17, 2014 | Property Division |

Pursuant to the divorce laws of Ohio and the majority of American states, property is often presumed to be marital property unless a spouse can prove it is separate. That presumption may also apply to a spouse’s stake in a business, regardless of the company’s worth.

In a recent example, a divorce court ordered an oil executive to pay his wife almost $1 billion. The couple did not have a prenuptial agreement. After a lump sum payment of $322 million, the balance will be paid in monthly installments of about $7 million. According to one estimate, the executive will be left with a net worth around $14 billion. 

Although not every divorce may involve assets worth millions, the issue of property division should not be taken lightly. The most obvious reason is the risk of finality: It may be difficult for a spouse to appeal a division of property absent special circumstances, such as fraud. For that reason, it’s important for a spouse to know his or her rights when it comes to the division of marital property.

In Ohio, state law actually lists several examples of separate property. Examples include inheritances, property acquired before the marriage, property identified as separate in a prenuptial agreement, gifts given to only one spouse, and some personal injury awards.

Property that was acquired during the marriage, even retirement or pension benefits, may fall under the umbrella of marital property to be divided equally between the spouses. If any separate property was commingled, or the other spouse contributed to the improvement in value of separate property, that contribution may also be subject to property division.

Source: Time, “Lessons From a $1 Billion Divorce Settlement,” Steve Sisney, Nov. 11, 2014

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