Separation may constitute a grueling process. Dividing your home, assets and even pets may bring serious emotion, but your worries increase as you think about your vineyard business.

Over the last few decades, you cultivated a growing winery in California. Though you’ve held ownership in the vineyard since before you met your spouse, you fear that you will lose a portion of the business upon finalizing your divorce. Understand that under equitable distribution in California, a court may closely analyze you and your spouse’s property – giving you rightful ownership of your own assets.

Equitable distribution and ownership

In equitable distribution states, a court designates your property as either community or separate.

Community property refers to the assets you and your spouse acquired throughout your marriage. Community property may include:

  • Salaries
  • Debt
  • Home
  • Car
  • Stocks
  • Retirement policies

Separate property includes assets acquired before your marriage or the income you obtained from separate property. Separate property may include:

  • Inheritance
  • Gifts
  • Anything obtained after separation

The business foundation date

The court will look at several factors in determining who receives your vineyard business and its future offerings. The most important aspect of community property, in this case, your winery, includes the date that the business began. If you started the business before you met or married your spouse, and you continued to solely own, operate and benefit from your business, you have rightful ownership of the business, as the court considers it separate property.

If you began the vineyard business, but your spouse was employed or had stock or any other stake in the company, the court may consider that the business falls under community property, although you created the business by yourself.

Understand that California court works to reconcile divided property during a divorce. Equitable distribution provides the opportunity for a fair separation of assets and works to not leave a specific spouse in dire straits.

If you are experiencing divorce that involves a business or expensive asset, it is essential that you hire an experienced attorney to represent you in court. If you own and operate your vineyard business, know that your assets are protected from division under separate property laws.