Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Property division complicated when business goes under

When a married couple is seeking to divorce, one of the major decisions to be made is how to split the property. In Massachusetts, like in most other states, the assets and debts accumulated during the married years are generally divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable is not the same as equal. For example, one person might get the house and its estimated equity, and the other person could get an equal value in other assets.

In the case of one couple, the main asset in the marriage is an online business. It is a business which sells guns, ammunition and other related items. The problem is that it is the online gun business which sold guns or ammunition to the Virginia Tech shooter who killed 32 people in 2007, the Northern Illinois University shooter who killed five people in 2008 and the Pittsburgh health club shooter who killed three women in 2009. The business valuation has turned out to be a difficult task.

Apparently, the online business looked better than it performed. There were numerous complaints of merchandise that was never received. There were also violations reported by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The violations included the failure to adequately perform background checks before selling weapons, and failing to keep accurate records.

According to the police in Green Bay, where the online business is based, the estranged husband closed down the business. That could mean anything. He could be liquidating his assets and moving on, or he could be closing down the gun business with the bad reputation, intending to open a new business. The state of his current inventory, as well as receivables, was not reported.

The estranged wife was reportedly questioning the motive and intent of the business closing. She was requesting that a neutral third party have access to the business for the purpose of assessing the company's value. She also asked the judge to place the company in neutral hands until the entire situation could be assessed.

When property division during divorce includes a family-owned business or closely-held business, it is a good idea to obtain professional help experienced with such matters.

Source: Fox25News, "Wis. company that sold to Va. Tech gunman closes," Todd Richmond, June 20, 2012

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