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Should divorcing business owners litigate or mediate?

If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you are probably dreading a court battle over the business you own.

Your focus may be on litigation, but that is not your only option. Facts show that even couples facing a high-asset divorce feel impressed by the mediation process and pleased with the outcome.

Going to court

As you may know, traditional divorce in New Jersey is a lengthy process. If it includes a family business, a court proceeding can become even longer and more complex. The divorce starts with one spouse filing a complaint with the clerk of the court, and the sheriff will serve the complaint plus a summons on the other party. Next comes a period of nine to 24 months in which a spouse may request a court order for temporary relief pending litigation. Matters addressed may include temporary child custody and visitation, support payments and restraints against the selling of marital property. Before the final hearing, each party can collect financial and other types of information from the other through discovery, a long and expensive process that may include interrogatories and depositions. Even after all this, the parties may not be able to revolve all their issues, which can cause further delays in the litigation process.

Opting for mediation

Mediation is a faster, less expensive and less stressful divorce option. Many couples facing high-asset divorce opt for mediation because it takes place in private outside of court. A neutral third party trained in this type of alternate dispute resolution guides the couple in resolving differences and reaching agreement on all issues, including the fate of the family business, the focal point of many a divorce. The mediator assists in keeping lines of communication open between the parties, an important effort, especially for couples who believe they can continue working together in spite of the divorce.

Making the most ideal decision

If a business is part of your divorce, whether to sell it outright, perform a buyout, close the doors altogether or continue as partners are decisions that you and your spouse must think carefully about. The main question is, will you, as business owners, be better served by litigation or mediation?

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