Divorce Court’s Power to Regulate Business

March 04, 2010 | Court Decisions, Divorce, Legal Perspective, Settlement

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

An issue that befuddles some business owners during the course of their divorce litigation is how to regulate the operation and management of their businesses. In cases where both spouses own interests in the business, they may struggle for control of important business and financial decisions.

Some issues may be resolved under the company’s partnership agreement, shareholders’ agreement, limited liability company (LLC) agreement, or corporate by-laws. Yet, these agreements are often too vague to deal effectively with disputes between divorcing spouses who own businesses together.

Early in the evolution of the Divorce Code, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania authorized the Courts to appoint receivers or trustees to prevent the dissipation of an ongoing business concern. Mayhue v. Mayhue, 485 A.2d 494 (Pa.Super.1984). The Superior Court in Mayhue held that 23 Pa.C.S. § 3505(a) and 23 Pa.C.S. § 3323(f) authorized the Courts to enter an injunction to prevent a spouse from continuing a course of conduct calculated to defeat his wife’s property rights in the business. The Superior Court in Mayhue approved the trustee’s powers to liquidate assets to pay business debts, pay delinquent taxes, and satisfy intercompany debts.

The appointment of a receiver is not practical in every case because the expense of paying a receiver may not be justified. Still, there are some cases in which third party supervision of the business might be the only practical way t0 ensure continued smooth operation of a business caught in the middle.

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