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Who Gets What? Unpacking Ohio Divorce: What Happens to a Business Owned Before Marriage?

In Ohio, the interest a spouse has in a business formed before marriage in divorce cases can vary depending on several factors. Ohio is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally in a divorce. Here are some considerations:


  1. Marital vs. Separate Property: Generally, assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital property and subject to division in a divorce, while assets acquired before the marriage are considered separate property. However, if the business's value increased during the marriage due to the efforts of both spouses or marital funds were used to maintain or improve the business, a portion of the business's value may be considered marital property subject to division.

  2. Active Participation: If the non-owner spouse actively participated in the operation or management of the business during the marriage, they may have a stronger claim to a portion of the business's value.

  3. Economic Contributions: Even if the non-owner spouse did not actively participate in the business, their economic contributions to the marriage, such as income earned or assets acquired during the marriage, could still be considered when determining the division of assets, including the business.

  4. Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements: If the spouses have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses the ownership or division of the business in the event of divorce, the terms of that agreement will generally govern.

  5. Valuation: Valuing a business can be complex, and professional appraisers may be involved to determine its worth. The valuation process may take into account various factors, including the business's assets, income, market value, and potential for future growth.


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