Many businesses, whether operating as a limited liability company (LLC), a corporation or a partnership will have more than one owner. These businesses are often started or experience appreciation in their value during the marriage of their owners. Therefore, if one or more of such owners should be divorced, the owner’s interest in the business will be subject to division as marital property. As such, there is a significant risk that the spouse of an owner could become an unwanted “partner” of the other owners of the business.
In order to prevent that undesirable outcome, the owners of a business should enter into an agreement which governs the handling of the owner’s interest should the owner be divorced.Such an agreement can also, and usually does, cover death, disability and loss of an owner’s interest to a creditor. It can be a stand alone, or part of a broader agreement dealing with other matters regarding the rights and obligations of the co-owners.
Provisions dealing with divorce are much less common than provisions dealing with the handling of a deceased or disabled owner’s interest in the business. Yet, with the increasing divorce rate, a provision dealing with the handling of an owner’s interest should the owner be involved in a divorce is imperative.
Recently the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, enforced the terms of an LLC operating agreement with respect to the handling of a divorcing member’s interest. The court reversed the trial court which had ordered the interest divided between the divorcing member and her spouse. The court held that the operating agreement must be enforced and ordered the divorcing member to sell her interest to the LLC pursuant to the terms of the operating agreement. See Schlicting, 2014 IL App (2nd 140158) 2014.