Dividing the Family Business To Feud or Not to Feud

Dividing the Family Business: To Feud or Not to Feud

Some consider family business to be the backbone of our economy. In fact, they comprise over 60% of our nation’s employment and 78% of new job creation. Studies have also shown that a business controlled by a family may exist longer than companies that are not owned and run by a family. The divorce of an owner may threaten that longevity. With the right processes and paperwork in place, dividing the family business doesn’t have to lead to a family feud.

Pre-Marriage Planning

This is the best place to start protecting a family business but is often overlooked. A strong prenuptial agreement may address the issue of business ownership, especially if the family business predates the relationship. A family business that starts during the marriage may be a little tougher to divide.

Valuing the Family Business

Usually, the parties need to know how much the business is worth before negotiating their settlement. The parties first may need to determine whether the business is community or separate property. If the business is separate property, did it increase in value during the marriage? The judge will need to know about the assets, accounts receivables, debts, and more. If the business itself or any increase in value during the marriage is counted as community property, courts and attorneys may calculate the value of the family business through:
  • Pereira accounting often used when the business increases in value due to the non-owner spouse’s efforts.
  • Van Camp accounting typically used when an increase is due to the economy or the business itself.
After the nature and value of the property are established, the parties may move toward settlement.

Negotiating the Divorce Settlement

The parties may decide to address the family business assets in several ways, including:
  • Buy-out. One spouse buys the other spouse’s interest in the business.
  • Sale. The parties sell their business interests and split the proceeds in a mutually agreeable way.
  • Working together. If the couple both worked at the family business, they might agree to continue working together.
The very nature of the family business may make negotiating even more emotional and stressful. Having a California divorce lawyer by your side can help.

It’s Complicated.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including business valuation. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Will Mediation Work for Your Divorce

Will Mediation Work for Your Divorce?

Married couples often figure out their own ways to settle disagreements. However, sometimes those disagreements cause the end of the marriage and one partner files for divorce. When a divorcing couple cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, they may land in a courtroom where a judge will make decisions for them. There is another way to settle, however. A form of alternative dispute resolution called mediation is often used in family law cases. Will mediation work for your divorce? Maybe, maybe not. Learning more about mediation may help you review your options.

Why Mediation Might Work

An impartial person like a mediator can hear both sides of a disagreement objectively. Since the mediator has no interest in the case, he or she can facilitate an agreement between the parties. Some other important reasons to consider family law mediation:
  • Mediation tends to be much less expensive than a court trial.
  • A judge schedules hearings and trials around his or her schedule. A mediation usually can be scheduled for a mutually convenient time for all parties.
  • You may receive your divorce decree earlier if you and your spouse are able to settle issues at mediation.
  • Mediation is done privately.
No system is perfect. Mediation is not always the answer.

Drawbacks to Mediation

There are some reasons you may want to avoid mediation, including:
  • If only one spouse wants the divorce;
  • If you don’t know the extent of each party’s assets and debts.
  • You or your spouse have secrets you don’t want to reveal.
  • When spouses are unable to communicate or be flexible about terms.
Keep in mind that mediators cannot give legal advice, and attorney-client privilege generally does not exist. However, California law does offer some protection, requiring that what happens in the mediation generally stays in the mediation.

Find Out if Mediation Will Work for Your Divorce

Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
Terminating a California Registered Domestic Partnership

Terminating a California Registered Domestic Partnership

The day Cody and Charles registered their domestic partnership was one of the happiest days of their lives. However, their relationship cooled over the years. Finally, they started doing online research about terminating a California registered domestic partnership. The more they learned, the more Cody and Charles felt this was the right path for them. They just had to follow the right procedures under California law.

Registered Domestic Partnerships Under California Law

In 2003, the California legislature passed a law that gave a registered domestic partnership the same legal rights and responsibilities as a married couple. Such rights include the right to terminate the legal relationship.

Forming the Registered Domestic Partnership

Adults in a committed relationship may file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership or a Confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State. They must be:
  • Unmarried and not part of another registered domestic partnership;
  • Unrelated by blood;
  • At least 18 years of age, in most circumstances;
  • Either both members of the same sex or an opposite-sex couple where one or both are over 62 years of age; and
  • Both consenting to the domestic partnership.
At times, one or both members of a partnership may look for a way out.

Ending the Registered Domestic Partnership

There are two basic ways to go about terminating a California registered domestic partnership – an easy way and a slightly more difficult way. The easiest way to dissolve a registered domestic partnership is to file a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State’s Office. The parties must meet the following conditions:
  • Both have signed the Notice of Termination.
  • They cannot have had children during the partnership, and neither party can be pregnant.
  • Their partnership must have existed for less than five years.
  • They cannot own any real property,
  • Their unpaid debts fall below the limit set by state law.
  • The parties have agreed on a division of assets and debt.
  • They have waived financial support.
Sometimes couples are not eligible to dissolve their partnership through a Notice of Termination. If so, one person will file a Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership with an appropriate court. The ensuing process is similar to a divorce proceeding. The court may grant a termination of the registered domestic partnership after the couple has worked out issues related to their relationship, including property division and spousal support.

Final Thoughts

If you want to terminate your registered domestic partnership, discuss your options with an experienced California divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Legal Separation When You’re Not Sure About the Split

Legal Separation: When You’re Not Sure About the Split

Brad and Sheila’s marriage had been rocky almost from the start. Still, they always seemed to be able to patch things up. This time, though, Brad did more than just move out for a few weeks before returning home. He filed for a legal separation from Sheila. Both Brad and Sheila felt that a legal separation might be best since they still were not sure about their split. Before reaching a final decision, they should understand a little more about how legal separation works in California.

California Laws

Every state has its own family laws. While some states do not recognize legal separation, California law does allow legal separation of both marriages and registered domestic partnerships. However, the parties will go through a formal court proceeding. To start the process, one spouse files a petition with an appropriate court asking for a legal separation. The other spouse has 30 days to answer the petition for legal separation. After considering issues like child support, custody, property, and spousal support, the court decides whether to allow a legal separation. You may be wondering why a couple would go to the trouble of obtaining a legal separation rather than just getting a divorce.

Marital Status

During a legal separation, the parties are still married and so cannot marry anyone else. For some people, this is an advantage.


After a judge approves the legal separation, the “earnings and accumulations of each party are the separate property of the party acquiring the earnings or accumulations.” Separation of earnings may be a compelling reason for some couples to legally separate.


Some may prefer legal separation to divorce because some religions do not condone divorce. The couple can live apart without breaking religious laws.


To obtain a divorce, either party has to meet California residency requirements:
  • At least one spouse must have lived in California for the past six months, AND
  • That spouse must have lived in the county where the divorce will be filed for the past three months.
People who want a legal separation are not bound by such residency requirement. In fact, some parties file a legal separation, then convert it to a divorce as soon as they have met the residency rules.

Legal Separation May Be a Solution

Our couple, Brad and Sheila, preferred the legal separation because it gave them time to adjust to the reality of divorce before actually divorcing. At some point, they may choose to convert their legal separation to a divorce or end the separation by reconciling. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of legal separations and divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.